Community remembers Tempe family killed in murder-suicide

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by Stacey Delikat

azfamily.com

Posted on June 7, 2012 at 10:13 AM

Updated Thursday, Jun 7 at 10:20 AM

TEMPE, Ariz. -- At a grief service Wednesday night, James and Yafit Butwin were remembered as proud, hardworking parents of three bright children.

All five Butwins were found dead over the weekend in what detectives have ruled a murder-suicide.

Hundreds of friends, colleagues and congregation members attended the service at Temple Emanuel where the Butwins were active members.

"Expect no answers for something this tragic," Rabbi Dean Shapiro told the group.

Police believe James Butwin killed Yafit and their children, Daniel, 14, Marissa, 16, and Matthew, 7, before killing himself.

Investigators believe their bodies are those found burnt beyond recognition in the family's SUV. It was discovered Saturday in Vekol Valley, a remote part of Pinal County.

"We're all in shock," said Michael Waxman, a board member at Temple Emanuel.

"They were active members of our congregation and we loved them and will miss them very much," said Susan Gorden, a former president of the temple.

Friends say the Butwins had been going through a divorce and a rough financial patch. James had been diagnosed with a brain tumor.

"Even if the tumor had come back, that was not a reason to just want to end his life, including the kids, especially the kids," said Leslie Cortez, who used to baby-sit for Matthew.

James' divorce attorney, Bill Bishop, said the news came as a shock because his client had no history of domestic violence.

"I don't know if I'd call him a bad guy or a good guy, or a nice guy or a mean guy," Bishop said. "He had his issues, and he was going through some stress."

Bishop said James, 47, had been frustrated about some of the disputes in the divorce.

"This is the most selfish, cowardly act anyone could do" Bishop said.

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