Pastor's lost wife, woman in custody dispute 'could be in danger', says investigator

Officials at the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation fear the wife of a pastor who disappeared with a woman she accompanied to pick up children on Saturday “could be in danger.”

“There's every reason to believe they could be in danger,” OSBI spokesman Hunter McKee said. ABC Newsnoting that no one knows exactly where the two women went.

In statementthe OSBI said the Texas County Sheriff's Department requested their assistance in investigating the “suspicious disappearance” of Veronica Butler, 27, and Jillian Kelley39, on Saturday.

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Kelley is Pastor's wife Heath Kelleywho is currently leading Hugoton First Christian Church in Kansas. Heath Kelley recently agreed to serve as the new pastor of Willow Christian Church in Nebraska starting in June. Both churches prayed for the safe return of the pastor's wife and Butler.

“Their vehicle was found abandoned near Highway 95 and Road L, south of Elkhart, Kansas, in rural Texas County,” the OSBI reported. Special agents, along with local law enforcement agencies, are working to locate the women.

An advisory from the Texas County Sheriff's Department said that Jilian Heath and Butler, who both had tattoos, did not make it to the location where they were expected to pick up the children.

“Veronica and Jilian traveled together to pick up children. They never arrived at the pickup location,” the tip said. “Their car was found abandoned on the side of the road. Veronica has several tattoos, a Chinese symbol on her left forearm, a sunflower on her left shoulder. Jilian has a butterfly tattoo on her left forearm.”

Representatives of Hugoton First Christian Church and Willow Christian Church did not immediately respond to The Christian Post's requests for comment on Tuesday.

A video posted on YouTube Monday shows officials at Hugoton First Christian Church offering prayers for the Kelley family while Willow Christian Church issued several statements about prayer vigils for the missing women.

“Please, please pray for these women. Jillian is the wife of our new minister, Heath Kelley, and the sister-in-law of church member Hillary Kennedy,” the church stated in. to notice on Facebook Sunday morning. “Please pray that Jillian and her friend Veronica are safe and that they are found quickly. God please bring these women home to their families who care so much for them.”

Tim Singer, the pastor of Hugoton Assembly of God, described as Butler's pastor, told ABC News that Butler and Jilian Heath were more like acquaintances than friends.

“It appears that this was not a voluntary incident that started on its own. It seems to me that there is something more involved,” he said.

A source close to Butler told ABC 7 that the missing mom was supposed to take her 6-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son to Eva, Oklahoma, to celebrate her daughter's birthday. Jilian Kelley traveled with her from Elkhart, Kansas, on what was supposed to be a 16-mile trip, but the trip appeared to end three miles short of their destination.

“Really hard to deal with knowing that someone I've been in contact with since I was 16 (is missing), it's been really hard,” the unidentified source said.

Court documents show Butler, the father of her children as well as his family were embroiled in a bitter custody dispute over the children.

In move presented in the Cimarron County Court in Oklahoma last November, Tifany Adams, the children's paternal grandmother, opposed any adjustment in the supervised visitation arrangement that Butler had with the children, noting that the children were exposed to sexual abuse while in her care.

The motion alleged that the children's father, Wrangler Cole Rickman, was a drug addict who had no interest in caring for his children. It noted, however, that he trusted his mother more than he trusted Butler to protect the children.

“Petitioner appears to have benefited from the indifference that Mr. Rickman has shown for his children. Mr. Rickman has removed himself from the children's lives. Instead of being a father, he now seeks the pleasures of drinking alcohol, using drugs and other degenerate behavior,” the complaint explains

“When he left the children, he left the children in the care of their mother, not in the care of the Petitioner. The reason for that is twofold. First, it would have been a violation of the court's order granting Mr. Rickman temporary emergency -custody for him. to leave the minor children with Petitioner. This is because, and the point cannot be emphasized enough, Petitioner's brother was found to have sexually abused the minor children by this court, and Petitioner was found to be in violation the no-contact order prohibiting the minor children from being around Petitioner's abusive sibling,” it adds.

“The second reason is because, obviously, Mr. Rickman trusts Mrs. Adams with the children more than he trusts the Petitioner with the children.”


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