WASHINGTON - It has been eight years since Pamela Butler disappeared under mysterious circumstances. The 47-year-old computer specialist with the Environmental Protection Agency is now considered legally dead after she vanished from her Northwest D.C. home in 2009.
Butler’s disappearance is one of the District's most puzzling crimes.
On February 12, 2009 – a Thursday – Butler walked into her highly secure home on 4th Street. She did some work, sent an email early the next morning and then silence. No one heard from her ever again.
Two days later on Valentine’s Day, Butler had plans to have dinner with her mother, but she never showed. Although worried, Butler's family just thought she wanted some space until the following Tuesday when they headed for her house. The doors were locked, but the alarm system was off and the 47-year-old’s two cars were still in the driveway.
"When they got to the door, they saw a lot of mail so they knew something was wrong when they saw all this mail at the front door and packages sitting outside,” said Derrick Butler, Pamela’s brother. “They go in, walk in the house, they look around and they look in Pam's office. They saw papers and things in the office stacked up neatly, but if you knew Pam, it wasn’t something that she would leave out.
"When they got upstairs, they looked and her bed wasn’t made up and the sheets that should have been on the bed were not there.”
D.C. police had examined every inch of the place of Pamela’s home. Her brother showed us the surveillance system at the house and the extensive work of the crime scene search.
"Missing are car keys, her cell phone, the purse that she would carry her license and things like that, and then the sheets from the bed – we never found those sheets,” Derrick said.
Pamela Butler was so concerned for her own personal safety, she had a sophisticated surveillance system installed in the house. There was a camera on the back door, a camera on the side door and a camera on the front door. But there was no camera on one side of the house and when the Butler family went back and looked at the surveillance video, they saw that Pamela had entered her house, but was never seen leaving the home. Their theory is she was killed inside her house and her body was removed from a window.
After detectives left in 2009, Derrick Butler showed us why.
“We came in – this blind was raised up,” he said. “She would never take the blinds up. She would lower them from the top down so that you couldn't see inside the house.”
And it was the only window in the house that was not locked.
With that information, D.C. police began taking a very close look at her boyfriend, Jose Rodriguez Cruz. He was seen on video carrying bags from the house. They questioned him several times, searched his apartment and even asked him to take a polygraph test – something he ultimately refused to do. But police were unable to charge him with a crime.
In the days after Pamela disappeared, FOX 5 spoke with Cruz off camera several times. He denied harming her, said the two had broken up and she had told him to take his things and go.
Derrick Butler talked to him too – more times than he can count.
"He told me that they had broke up and he hadn't seen or heard from Pam, but he did leave her several messages on her cell phone and she never answered,” said Derrick. “But he said they broke up because he wanted to stay in touch with his ex-girlfriend’s daughter and Pam didn't want him to do that, which is kind of hard for me to believe because I know how we feel about kids."
We asked Derrick Butler what Cruz’s theory was on Pamela's disappearance.
“He said I can tell you that the last couple of weeks, something was going on with her,” Derrick recalled. “What it was, she never shared with me, but something was going on. I don't know what it was, but I think that was just to lead me down a different road to take the spotlight off of him.”
As the years go by, Pamela’s family has remembered her with vigils outside of the house. Neighbors and even police officers still recognize Derrick and stop to say hello to him. One neighbor told Derrick, “We still pray for Pamela Butler.”
“We get a lot of those everywhere I go,” Derrick told us.
There is no evidence Pamela Butler may still be alive and Cruz has always maintained his innocence. He said the bags he was seen taking out of the house were just his belongings.
With no body and no solid evidence of a murder, police have nowhere to go.