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What we know about the ‘suspicious disappearance’ of two women in Oklahoma

Veronica Butler, 27, and Jilian Kelley, 39 have vanished while driving together (Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation/Facebook)
Veronica Butler, 27, and Jilian Kelley, 39 have vanished while driving together (Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation/Facebook)

Police are still searching for two Kansas women who were on their way to pick up children to take them to a birthday party, with investigators now saying that “foul play” is suspected in their disappearance.

Authorities say that Veronica Butler, 27, and Jilian Kelley, 39, mysteriously vanished in a rural part of Texas County, Oklahoma.

Both women are thought to be involved in religious communities in Hugoton, Kansas, with Ms Kelley being the wife of a pastor in the area, but he had recently taken up a new posting in Nebraska.

There have been no sightings of the women since they seemingly abandoned a car that authorities believe they were travelling in.

No arrests have been made, but investigators believe there is evidence to indicate foul play.

Now, investigators are on the hunt to find answers on what happened to the women, in what they have branded as a “suspicious disappearance.”

Here’s what we know about the case:

An abandoned car

The car that the women were believed to be travelling in at the time that they went missing was found abandoned on the side of a road in Texas County, Oklahoma.

After the OSBI assessed “information obtained from the victim’s vehicle,” investigators believed there was evidence to indicate foul play. No further details have been released on the nature of the evidence.

The vehicle was found near Highway 95 and Road L, just south of Elkhart, Kansas, a rural community near the Oklahoma border.

At the time, the women were on their way to pick up “children,” as the endangered missing advisory notice by the Texas County Sheriff’s Department says.

However, they never made it to their pickup location.

No arrests have been made in connection to the case, but investigators are continuing to search for the women they have now labelled “victims.”

The women were reportedly going to pick up Ms Butler’s children to attend a birthday party when they disappeared, Tim Singer, Ms Butler’s pastor from Hugoton Assembly of God told ABC News.

An anonymous person close to Ms Bulter relayed similar information to KVII, and said they were supposed to pick the children up from Eva, Oklahoma.

However, the OSBI told the outlet that they could not confirm why and where these women were going and coming from as it is still under investigation.

It is unclear what day this was, but the OSBI made their investigation announcement on Sunday.

There’s a lot of "shock" and "confusion" in the community amid their mysterious disappearance, Mr Singer told ABC News.

"We’re expecting their return to Hugoton and to see their faces again," he said.

Who are the missing women?

Veronica Butler, 27, and Jilian Kelley, 39, were described as acquaintances by Mr Singer, although an Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation told NBC News that they were presuming they were friends.

The women were last known to be together driving in a car in Texas County, Oklahoma (Texas County Sheriff’s Department)
The women were last known to be together driving in a car in Texas County, Oklahoma (Texas County Sheriff’s Department)

Jilian Kelley

Ms Kelley is the wife of a new minister at Willow Christian Church in Nebraska, according to their Facebook post.

He previously was the pastor at Hugoton First Christian Church in Kansas and The McCook Gazette reported that it is in the same area where the church attended by Ms Butler is located.

“Please pray that Jilian and her friend Veronica are safe and that they are found quickly,” the post read.

“God please bring these women home to their families that are so worried about them.”

The mother of Ms Kelley told KFOR that her daughter is a mother of four, is loved by everyone and does a lot of volunteer work in the community.

She also added that Ms Kelley currently works as a secretary at Hugoton First Christian Church and runs all of its children’s programs.

Ms Kelley has brown hair, blue eyes and a butterfly tattoo on her left forearm.

Her clothing consisted of white-washed blue jeans, a long-sleeved shirt and tan or beige shoes.

Veronica Butler

Ms Butler’s former school is not far from where the abandoned car was found, so as a precaution, the school implemented a lockdown on Tuesday, with additional safety measures in place.

The school’s superintendent said Bulter was part of the class of 2015 and was a class of one that year, meaning she was the only senior graduating.

“I joked about her being the top of her class and, well, the bottom also,” the superintendent wrote.

An anonymous friend described her to KFOR as being kind, good with kids and loving gardening, cooking and baking.

Ms Butler’s stepmother, Guadalupe Torres, and father, Clinton Butler, separately told NBC News that the missing woman had been in a difficult custody dispute.

Court records seen by the outlet show a custody case was opened in late March 2015 and closed almost a month later.

Ms Butler has red hair, green eyes and several tattoos, including a Chinese symbol on her left forearm and a sunflower on her left shoulder, according to an endangered missing advisory posted by the Texas County Sheriff’s Department.

She was wearing a blue short-sleeved shirt, denim shorts and Hey Dudes.

The state of the investigation

The Texas County Sheriff’s Department requested help from the state’s OSBI agency to find the women. As of 12 April, the FBI in Oklahoma City also joined the search.

While the disappearance has been branded as suspicious by the agency, OSBI spokesperson Hunter McKee told NBC News that there are currently no suspects in the investigation, and no threats against the women have been reported.

Despite this, Mr McKee also told ABC News that “there’s every reason to believe that they could be in danger.”

“It was a very rural area. They’re nowhere to be found. ... The fact that we’ve had no contact with them for this long,” he added.

"Agents are still working around the clock on this to try to find where these women are, what may have occurred," Mr McKee said to NBC.

Mr McKee also told NewsNation that due to not knowing where the women are, or what happened to them, “That unknown is what has created it suspicious for us at this time.”

Religious community waits for news

The Willow Christian Church held a gathering for the women on Sunday to have time to pray for the two women.

“We ask that you continue to pray for Jilian and Veronica and their families as the search and investigation continue,” the church said in another Facebook post.

“Pray for strength, wisdom and faith for everyone involved.”

The Hugoton Assembly of God, which is Ms Bulter’s reported congregation, held a community prayer for the two women on Monday.

Anyone with information regarding this case is asked to contact the OSBI at tips@osbi.ok.gov or 1-800-522-8017.