Beau Butschke, 28, was last seen at a friend’s home on Thursday, July 14 around 5:15 p.m. in the safe, family community of Oconomowoc, Wisc., 45 minutes west of Milwaukee. Beau had a sore back caused by a waterskiing accident in Golden Lake on July 10, and his friend gave him a muscle relaxer . After the visit, Beau called his mother, Cathy Butschke, from his cell phone at around 5:30 p.m. She says her son sounded fine and everything seemed normal.
Beau then stopped back at the duplex he rented in the N8000 block of River Valley Road in the town of Ixonia, a smaller neighboring community about 11 minutes northwest of Oconomowoc.
“We know he came back home afterwards,” said Cathy Butschke, “because the muscle relaxer is [at his home]."
No one knows where Beau went after stopping at home.
When Beau missed weekend plans, Cathy Butschke went to his house to check on him. Beau wasn't home, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary, and his cell phone charger was still there.
"His apartment look[ed] like he just got up and went to work," she said.
Cathy returned the next day, and there was still no indication that her son had been home. More worrisome, perhaps, was that it was not like Beau to not come home and to not call someone. He always called if he was going to be late, and he had never gone missing before. He also kept in regular contact with his family. He worked with his father, spoke with him every day, and visited him every weekend.
That's when the family says they panicked and called police. They filed a missing person report around 5:30 p.m. on Monday, July 18, and began a frantic search for their son.
According to a Facebook page created to raise awareness for the disappearance, there had been no signal on Beau's phone or activity on his bank or credit cards since July 14.
Beau last worked at his job at G&V Machine in Ixonia on July 12, but due to his back injury, he could not resume work until Monday, July 18, and he did not report that Monday, as expected.
His 1993 red Toyota 2-door pick-up truck was also missing. The 2-wheel drive truck was distinctive in that it had black wheels and no hubcaps, lots of rust, and many motocross stickers on the back window. Cathy Butschke said her son referred to the truck as "Yota," because the first two letters were missing from the back.
During the search for Beau, Jefferson County Sheriff Detective Joe Mech said, "There are so many different reasons it could happen; right now, we're just trying to determine which one is most likely." Mech said that the case was an active investigation and added that there was nothing pointing to foul play at that point.
The Search for Beau Butschke
On Tuesday, July 19, Jefferson County Sherriff’s deputies, joined by thirty to forty of Beau’s family and friends, conducted an extensive search of the area around the rental unit where he lived.
According to authorities, Beau’s rental unit sat on a 30- to 40-acre property that may have been a farm at one point. The lot had a dirt road six-tenths of a mile long and covered by foliage. The remoteness of the location and size of the property appealed to Beau, who liked to ride his dirt bike.
Due to the size of the land, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office Tactical Air Wing participated in the search by both air and land, hoping to spot Beau’s truck. Nothing was found. Canine units were not utilized due to the hot weather and the time that had lapsed since Beau disappeared.
Friends reported on Facebook that during the search, they found a change jar belonging to Beau that had been stolen from his house about a month prior to disappearance. It was empty. They gave it to detectives for fingerprinting.
On Tuesday, July 26, two weeks after his disappearance, the body of Beau Butschke was found inside a padlocked storage unit at the Ski Slide Road at N7777 Ski Slide Road in Ixonia.
The owner of storage facility, Mike Herro, said a neighboring tenant had complained of bugs in his unit. When Herro checked it out, he noticed the smell of decay coming from the adjacent unit. He called the sheriff’s department at 6:34 p.m to be there when he opened the door. Inside the storage unit was a red, rusty Toyota pick-up truck matching the vehicle owned by Beau Butschke. The body of a deceased person, later identified as Butschke, was inside.
The owner of facility told police that he had noticed a lock on the outside of the unit last week, even though it hadn't been leased.
According to a statement from the sheriff’s department, “A crime scene was established, detectives and administration from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, as well as the Crime Lab Mobile Scene Response Unit from the Department of Justice, were dispatched to the scene to assist in processing the crime scene and evidence.” The Wisconsin Department of Justice assisted in the investigation.
The following day, an autopsy was performed by the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office, and the Sheriff’s Office announced that they would be “treating this case as a homicide investigation” and that all eight of their detectives were following up on leads and assessing evidence. Due to the ongoing investigation, they were unable to release the cause of death at that time.
John Robins-Wells, an retired private investigator who became involved with the case on July 20, told the Watertown Daily Times, “We have several people of interest and that is about all I can say,” he said. Wells operates who operates the Jefferson-based Wisconsin Center for Missing Children and Adults and has experience as private investigator dating back to the 1960s.
“The key to the murder is that the storage unit was locked from the outside,” Robins-Wells said. “Somebody had to lock it.”
On August 1, 2011, two men were arrested in Beau Butschke's death.
Gitte Laasby of the Journal Sentinel reported, Beau had been "shot at close range July 14 with his own .22-caliber rifle by his neighbor, who had stolen the weapon weeks earlier...After disposing of the body in a storage unit, the neighbor and another man went back to the neighbor's apartment and ate bratwurst and drank beer stolen from Butschke, according to a criminal complaint released Monday.
The two men, James T. Richardson, 51, of Watertown and James H. Richards, 19, of Oconomowoc, were charged with one count each of first-degree intentional homicide, theft from a person or corpse, and hiding a corpse.
Laasby's article summarizes the criminal complaint against Richardson and Richards:
Richardson and Butschke were neighbors in a duplex and had argued several times recently over lawn mowing and over Richardson not keeping up his half of the property.
Richardson and Richards, a homeless man whom Richardson had offered a place to stay after meeting him at a gas station in Oconomowoc a couple of weeks earlier, were shooting the rifle near the Rock River on July 14 when Butschke walked by. When Butschke asked what they were doing, Richardson jumped out from behind a tree and shot several rounds at close range in Butschke's direction, hitting him in the leg and head, the complaint states.
Richardson picked up gloves at his residence, and the two wrapped Butschke's body in a blue tarp and placed it in the bed of Butschke's pickup. After hosing down the crime scene and raking wood chips around it, they drove the truck to an unrented storage unit at Ski Slide Storage in Ixonia, where they left the truck with the body. They stole Butschke's phone, keys and wallet from his pockets, locked the door, threw away the keys and headed back to the duplex.
"Richards said after they disposed of Beau's body, they went back to Richardson's residence, and they ate brats and drank beer they had taken from Beau's residence," the complaint states.
Ten days later, detectives questioned Richardson and Richards when Richardson's vehicle was found at a house in Janesville, where he has family. At the time, Richardson denied knowing where Butschke might be and said he had left the duplex because he was being evicted.
Two days later - on July 26, 12 days after Butschke was killed - officers from the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department were called to the storage business for a "pungent odor." That's when Butschke's body was recovered.
Shortly after midnight on Sunday, Richardson showed up at the Janesville Police Department to get a voucher for lodging because he was homeless.
When detectives interviewed him, he admitted he had been thinking about killing Butschke for a while but hadn't had a chance to.
He later confessed to a detective from the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department, saying Butschke had treated him poorly for almost two months, the complaint says.
According to the complaint, "Richardson told Det. Gray that he was pushed and pushed and just couldn't take it anymore, so it would have happened regardless."
Jefferson County District Attorney Susan Happ said the disputes rather than the robbery appeared to be the motive for the killing.
"I guess that's a motive or a reason. It certainly isn't rational. It certainly isn't an excuse," she said.
About the beer and brats, she added: "I think the conduct after the alleged incident just goes to character, poor character. Who does that type of a thing? That kind of speaks to itself."
Sheriff Paul Milbrath called the killing a "cold-blooded murder."
On November 9, 2011, James T. Richardson, 51, was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole in the homicide death of Beau Butschke. Richardson, who police said allegedly confessed to them, had waived his right to a jury trial the previous month and changed his plea to guilty. He received another 10 years in prison for hiding Butschke’s body.
WISN.com reported that Beau's family wore buttons in court with his picture on it.
"He was brutally murdered. He died, and so did I," said Beau's father, Bob Butschke. "Life as I know it then and before his death no longer exists."
James H. Richards, 19, who pled guilty to one count each of concealing a corpse and theft from a corpse was sentenced on Wednesday, December 7, 2011 by Jefferson County Branch IV Circuit Court Judge Randy Koschnick. Richards was ordered to serve five years of initial confinement followed by 5 years of extended supervision on each count to run concurrently.
Butschke’s father, Bob Butschke, spoke at the sentencing, asking that Richards get the maximum term in prison along with mental help. He pointed out that Richards could have helped the Butschke family in locating thir son's body, but did not. He also showed little respect for their son in disposing of the body in a storage locker in 95-degree heat.
Judge Randy Koschnick acknowledged that Richards was sexually abused in the extreme as he grew up under foster care, did not have a previous criminal record, and by pleading guilty, had spared the court and the Butschke family a trial. Yet, in issuing sentence, Koschnick said he was also placed considerable weight on the seriousness of Richards' actions and the pain it caused the Butschke’s family and the community. He noted that Richards was "more of a follower than a leader.” But he also said that entering Butschke's house after his death to consume his food and beer and steal his cigarettes was "at a minimum an exploitation of the victim’s death,” but "may well have been some sort of celebration.” He also noted that there was thought behind Richards' crimes, which revealed a certain amount of criminal sophistication and also a "complete lack of respect for Mr. Butschke’s body and family.”
“This is a difficult case because there are aggravated things on one hand and mitigating characteristics on the other,” Koschnick said. “But I think the state strikes the right balance with its recommendation.”
Name/age: Beau Butschke, 28
Residence: River Valley Road, Ixonia, Wisconsin
Last seen: 07/14/11, 4:30 p.m., Oconomowoc, Wisconsin
Status: Recovered 07/26/11, 6:34 p.m., N7777 Ski Slide Road, Ixonia, Wisconsin
Cause/manner of death: Gun shot/Homicide
Physical Description: Caucasian, 5’8” - 5’10,” 130-165 pounds, light brown hair, green eyes. No tattoos, piercings or birthmarks.
Vehicle: Red 1993 Toyota 2 doors pick-up truck with 2-wheel drive, black wheels, without hubcaps, rust, and many motocross stickers on the back window. The first two letters in "Toyota" are missing from the back, spelling "Yota."
License plate # is FW7769.
Investigating Agency: Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, (920) 674-7310.
Christian, Samantha. (2011, December 8). Richards gets prison time. Accessed October 9, 2013 from http://www.wdtimes.com/news/local/image_7de4a49e-21bf-11e1-8829-0019bb2963f4.html
Laasby, Gitte. (2011, August 1). 2 charged in slaying of missing Ixonia man. Journal Sentinel. Accessed October 9, 2013 from http://m.jsonline.com/more/news/crime/126534053.html
Staff report. (2011, November 9.) Man Sentenced To Life In Prison In Beau Butschke Homicide. WISN.com. Accessed November 9, 2013 from
Staff report. (2011, December 8). Richards Sentenced. Watertown Daily Times. Accessed October 9, 2013 from http://www.wdtimes.com/news/article_ed8254e0-2133-11e1-a42d-0019bb2963f4.html
Originally published: 7/25/11 3 pm. Updated: 10/9/13.