Custody battle, group 'God's Misfits' behind killings of missing Kansas moms: Affidavit

A grandmother who served as a county Republican Party chair and allegedly belonged to "God's Misfits", an anti-government religious group, is accused of purchasing five stun guns and three burner phones in the weeks leading up to her arrest in connection with the kidnapping and deaths of two Kansas women.

In Texas County District Court, Tifany Machel Adams, 54, of Keyes, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of kidnapping and one count of conspiracy to commit murder in the deaths of Veronica Butler, 27, and Jilian Kelley, 39.

The two women went missing March 30 when Butler's car was found abandoned in rural Texas County, Oklahoma — near Highway 95 and Road L, just south of Elkhart, Kansas, and the Oklahoma/Kansas border.

Investigators say Adams was embroiled in a custody battle with Butler.

Adams, the mother of Butler’s former romantic partner, believed Butler’s brother was abusing the couple's 8- and 6-year-old children, according to court documents in a prolonged custody dispute.

Butler was granted court-ordered visitation every Saturday, and because her usual supervisor was unavailable on the day of her disappearance, another supervisor, Kelley, went with Butler to pick up her kids from Adams.

When Butler’s family didn’t hear from her later, they called police.

On Monday, the two women were confirmed dead.

Two bodies were recovered in rural Texas County Sunday, and the Oklahoma chief medical examiner's office confirmed Tuesday that Butler and Kelley were the victims.


Facing the same charges are Adams' boyfriend, Tad Bert Cullum, 43, of Keyes, as well as Cole Earl Twombly, 50, and Cora Twombly, 44, each of Texhoma. It is unclear whether the four have obtained an attorney, according to online court records.

The OSBI discovered that Adams, Cullum, Cole Twombly and Cora Twombly belong to the anti-government group “God’s Misfits” that held regular meetings, according to a probable cause affidavit for an arrest warrant.

Adams served as the chair for the Cimarron County GOP, state Republican leaders said.

"This case was tragic," OSBI spokesmen Hunter McKee said, during a press conference on Monday. "We have two people who are dead and four people that committed an absolutely brutal crime."

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Disappearance coincides with custody battle

Court documents show Adams and Butler were engaged in a bitter custody battle involving Butler’s two young children. The father of the children is Wrangler Rickman, Adams’ 26-year-old son.

On the day of Butler's disappearance, Adams had been taking care of the children and Butler planned to pick them up at Four Corners near Highway 95 and US-64 in Texas County to take her daughter to a birthday party. When they did not arrive, the family began looking for Butler.

In an interview with the OSBI, Adams allegedly said she was at home at the time Butler and Kelley went missing. She called Butler to confirm the pickup of the children, but Butler said something came up and she wasn’t going to make it, according to the probable cause affidavit.

However, investigators say, Butler was in Hugoton, Kansas, and in the process of picking Kelley up to go meet Adams.

Adams is also alleged to have told one of her visitation supervisors to take a couple of weeks off so Adams could question the children about Butler’s visitation supervisors.

Adams was the last known person to communicate with Butler, and Adams was scheduled to meet Butler and Kelley for visitation at 10 a.m. on March 30, an OSBI agent wrote in the affidavit.

Butler and Kelley's phone records indicated their devices were actively sending signals to their carriers until about 9:42 a.m., after which the devices were no longer seen by the networks and stopped transmitting.

Neither phone was found at the scene or within the vehicle.

When the vehicle was located in rural Texas County, authorities reported blood and Butler's glasses were found in the roadway near a broken hammer. A pistol magazine was found inside Kelley's purse at the scene, but no pistol was found.

Series of death threats preceded disappearance, investigators say

The child custody dispute at times turned threatening, according to OSBI investigators.

Recordings obtained by investigators allegedly reveal Rickman discussing death threats made by Adams and her boyfriend, Callum, one of the accused in the slaying case.

The custody battle started in 2019. In March this year, motions were filed requesting extended visitation for Butler.

A hearing was scheduled to occur on April 17. Butler's attorney informed the OSBI that Butler was likely to receive unsupervised visitation with her children.

At times, Adams refused to let Rickman have his children, even though Rickman had legal custody of them, according to investigators. Law enforcement previously responded to a call for service where Adams refused to give Rickman his children.

Rickman's grandmother, Debi Knox-Davis, reported that in February, Rickman told her they didn't have to worry about the custody battle much longer because Adams had it under control.

Rickman is alleged to have told her that Adams knew the path the judge walked to work, and "we will take out Veronica [Butler] at drop off." Rickman denied having that conversation with Knox, according to investigators.

Rickman was confirmed to be in a rehabilitation facility in Oklahoma City at the time of Butler and Kelley’s disappearance.

Taser pain level, prepaid cell phones in search history

On April 1, OSBI agents obtained a search warrant for Adams’ cell phone.

They allege that the phone showed internet searches for Taser pain level, gun shops, prepaid cellular phones and how to get someone out of their house.

OSBI investigators say Adams purchased three prepaid cell phones from WalMart in Guymon on Feb. 3. All three phones were at the area where Butler's car was located and the last known location of Butler and Kelley at the time of their disappearance, according to the OSBI.

A search of local gun shops showed Adams bought five stun guns at Big R Stores in Guymon on March 23, investigators say.

OSBI: Teen witness reports conversations about homicide

On April 3, OSBI investigators interviewed a 16-year-old daughter of Cora Twombly.

The teen told investigators she overheard group conversations about Butler allegedly not protecting her children from abuse at the hands of Butler’s brother.

The mother told her daughter of her involvement in the homicides, and that the others who were later arrested were also involved, the witness allegedly told OSBI.

The girl also told investigators she saw two burner phones charging on her mother’s nightstand in her bedroom.

Investigators later learned of two burner phones left below a dam near a rural property in Texas County where it was discovered that a hole had been dug and filled back in and then covered with hay.

The night before Butler and Kelley went missing, the girl told investigators that Cora Twombly said she and Twombly’s husband, Cole, would not be home in the morning when she woke up because they were going on a “mission.”

They returned home in a blue and gray pickup and blue flatbed pickup.

The daughter was told to clean the interior of the blue and gray pickup and that things had “not gone as planned,” according to the affidavit.

According to OSBI investigators, she was told that her mother and her mother’s husband blocked the road to stop Butler and Kelley and divert them to where Adams, Cullum and another man, who has not been arrested, were located.

Asked if the bodies of Butler and Kelley were put in a well, her mother allegedly told her daughter: “Something like that.”

The girl also claimed other attempts on Butler’s life were made in February.

Near Hugoton, Kansas, the four charged, along with another man not arrested, planned to “throw an anvil through Butler's windshield while driving, making it look like an accident because anvils regularly fall off of work vehicles,” according to the affidavit.

All four defendants remain in the Texas County jail without bond.

"This case did not end in the way that we had hoped," OSBI Director Aungela Spurlock said during Monday's press conference. "It has certainly been a tragedy for everybody involved. Our condolences go out to the family."

Timeline of events

  • March 30: Texas County, Oklahoma, Sheriff’s Department posts missing poster on social media, providing details about the women’s physical appearance and photos.

  • March 31: Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation announced they were asked to assist in investigating a “suspicious” disappearance in Texas County.

  • April 3: OSBI said that “based on the information obtained from the victim’s vehicle, our investigators believe there was evidence to indicate foul play.”

  • April 13: Police arrest four people in connection to the women's disappearance. All four were booked into the Texas County jail Saturday, each for two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of kidnapping and one count of conspiracy to commit murder in the first degree, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation said. Official charges have not been filed.

  • April 14: OSBI announced that two bodies were recovered in rural Texas County and will be taken to the Medical Examiner's Office for identification.

  • April 15: Officials hold press conference on case. Affidavit details information leading to suspects arrests and their connection to Butler and Kelley.

  • April 16: Oklahoma Office of Medical Examiner confirms Butler and Kelley are the victims.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Killings of missing Kansas women stem from custody battle: Affidavit