A look at Kimberly Butts’ Facebook profile shows a happy, loving family and the 39-year-old Georgia mother’s apparent strong bond with her 15-year-old son Caleb, who had Down syndrome.
In a photo Butts posted last week, Caleb is seen smiling and using his hands to sign “I love you.”
But the scene at the family’s secluded home near Saint George contrasted horrifically with those cheerful images. Responding to a Tuesday morning 911 call placed by Butts’ father, Mike Wilson, investigators found Butts’ and Caleb’s lifeless bodies lying side-by-side across a bed in the master bedroom. The body of Butts’ mother, Jan Kirkland, 64, lay in the hallway.
During the call, Wilson told a Charlton County 911 operator that he smells a strong gas odor and sees several lit burners. “I need police, detectives and a CSI,” he said. “There are three dead people in my house.”
Though a full medical examiner’s report won’t be available for several months, “evidence currently shows that Kimberly Gayle Butts took the lives of Caleb Logan Butts and Jan Elizabeth Kirkland prior to taking her own life,” says a statement from the Georgia Bureau of Investigations.
Ballistic and toxicology tests are pending.
Kirkland was found with a single gunshot wound, while Caleb had multiple shots to the chest and Butts had a gunshot wound to the left temple, with a pink semiautomatic handgun laying on her left shoulder, the statement says.
Butts’ longtime friend Shawna Tomlinson tells PEOPLE that Butts had dealt with back pain from a degenerative disk and was approved to undergo surgery. The day before the fatal shootings, Butts had gotten into a confrontation with a man at McDonald’s who accused her of jumping the line and then became very belligerent, Tomlinson says.
Tomlinson also says Butts kept the gun used in the killings under her pillow because of a recent spate of thefts.
Relative Sandy Dobbs tells PEOPLE, “We’re all feeling in shock, like it’s not real.” Dobbs adds, “She always seemed like a really bubbly person and he always seemed like a happy child who just loved to have fun.”
Dobbs notes that Butts, Caleb and Kirkland had monthly family dinner outings, including one last week at a Texas Roadhouse restaurant, which Dobbs attended. At that dinner, Butts’ elder son showed up on a surprise visit from his U.S. Navy deployment. Though Dobbs says Butts struggled financially and was unemployed, Dobbs says nothing seemed amiss at that dinner and that Butts was thrilled to see Chandler.
“That’s what makes it seem a little more unreal,” Dobbs says.
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