Murdered mom and three kids laid to rest in Israel, family needs help paying for burial

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By Andrew Michalscheck By Andrew Michalscheck

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The mother and three children at the center of a brutal murder-suicide were buried together in Israel Thursday.

It's been nearly three weeks since Yafit Butwin and her three children, Malissa, Daniel and Matthew were murdered in their Tempe home, their bodies found burned in the desert.

"If something were to happen to her, she always wanted to be buried in Israel with her children," said Yafit's nephew Kfir Amsalem, who lives 20 minutes outside of Jerusalem.

Amsalem and Yafit's brother, Itsik Zarihan, are still in the Valley getting Yafit's affairs in order. They watched the burial live on their cell phones.

Yafit was born in Israel and lived there until she was 20. She moved to New Jersey and worked as an au pair, where she met James Butwin.

"I remember Yafit telling me that when she had to go back he followed her, he wanted to be with her," said Sara Katz-Imadali, Yafit's close friend.

The two were married and they eventually moved to Arizona.

Still, she remained close to her family back in Israel.

"We talk a lot with all of the family - she always said that she's happy and she takes care of her children," Amsalem said, saying Yafit never wanted to worry the family, especially her ailing mother. "We always know that Jim was a great father, he was always loving to our family. When we heard about the murder, no body can believe. We really, really loved him."

The community is still in shock over the murders, and the man they never suspected.

"No, there was nothing about his behavior any day that I ever saw him that made me worry about her," said Katz-Imadali, who now questions her most recent interactions with James Butwin. "How could I have been at that band concert, sitting with him and I didn't know what might have been going on in his head?"

Fulfilling Yafit's wish to have her kids buried with her in Israel wasn't easy, or cheap.

The family fronted $40,000 to have the remains prepared in Arizona and flown to a mortuary in New York to be prepared again, all with strict Jewish customs in mind. The plots alone cost about $4,000 each.

The community has made $9,000 in donations, the rest of the money was borrowed on a short term loan, and is due in just two weeks.

"The belief is that the soul is not at rest until they've been buried so this is a very stressful situation," said Katz-Imadali.

The family is prepared to mortgage their homes and sell cars to make the loan, but they hope the community will continue to give.

"It's really important to us and we really don't know how to thank the community," said Amsalem.


You can help donate:

-At any Chase bank account #3035011211

-Dropping a donation off at Carol Dulis' office, a close friend of Yafit.

1001 E Warner Rd. #101

Tempe, AZ


There will be a fundraiser on Wednesday, June 27th at both locations of Jimmy and Joe's Pizza.

30% of the money made that day will be donated to the family's burial account.


Chandler location: 3950 W. Ray Rd.

Mesa location: 1960 W. Baseline

You can also drop off donations to the family's synagogue:

Tempe Emmanuel at 5801 S. Rural Rd., Tempe