Police: Burned SUV with bodies is missing family’s

PHOENIX (AP) — An SUV found burning in the desert with five bodies inside was registered to the home of a missing family of five, including three children, police in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe said Tuesday.

An acquaintance reported to police on Monday that the Butwin family of Tempe was missing, Tempe police Sgt. Jeff Glover said.

Responding investigators found “suspicious and concerning” evidence in the home but no people, and they began treating the case as a murder-suicide. The family’s Ford SUV also was gone.

Meanwhile, the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office was investigating the discovery of five bodies found burned beyond recognition in a Ford SUV in the desert 35 miles south of Phoenix on Saturday.

Glover said the sheriff’s office has since notified them that the SUV in the desert was registered to the Butwin family’s home.

The bodies have not been positively identified because they were burned so badly beyond recognition, the sheriff’s office said Tuesday.

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu said Monday the location of the smoldering SUV in a known smuggling corridor and the nature of the crime itself have him all but certain that a violent smuggling cartel was responsible.

Babeu said the burned car likely is the same car that a Border Patrol agent saw four hours earlier Saturday when it was still dark.

The agent saw a stopped white Ford Expedition and became suspicious, but when he approached, the vehicle fled and the agent lost it, Babeu said.

When the sun came up, the same agent saw car tracks in the area leading into the desert and shortly after, found a smoldering white Ford Expedition, Babeu said.

When the agent approached the car, he saw four burned bodies lying down in the cab of the vehicle, and one body in the back passenger seat.

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