Family grateful for making arrests in Natasha Butler homicide case

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 16, 2005


Managing Editor

LAPLACE – “They were a little startled when they were scooped up,” Sheriff Wayne L. Jones said, after three arrests were made in the murder of Natasha Baggett Butler.

Jeri Eron, Butler’s aunt from Petal, Miss., described her 31-year-old dental hygienist niece as “a warm and friendly young woman,” and the homicide itself “a senseless murder.”

Butler was killed on Sept. 20, 2004, in her Country Club Drive home and her house set on fire to possibly conceal evidence of the crime.

She and several family members attended a press conference held Friday afternoon, and expressed their gratitude in never giving up on the investigation.

Jones thanked detectives in the case and said that charges of aggravated arson have been added to the first-degree murder charge. He added that after discussions with District Attorney John Crum, they would seek the death penalty for all three, if convicted.

“It was a burglary in progress,” Jones said, “with no sign of forced entry.” He described evidence of a scuffle at the rear of the residence and called it “a burglary that went awry.”

“She enjoyed life and was a very caring person,” Jones added of Butler. He continued that evidence turned to the three suspects in December, and that all three lived within a mile of the victim’s residence.

The three LaPlace men are all charged with first-degree murder and are jailed, on a half-million-dollar bond each, set by 40th Judicial District Judge Madeline Jasmine.

The arrestees were identified by Maj. Michael Tregre as Bryan Stewart, 18; Mark Kinler, 18, and Anthony Babin, 20, all of LaPlace.

Tregre said Stewart was initially picked up for questioning on possible involvement in a car wash burglary. Detectives further questioned Stewart regarding the homicide of Butler, Tregre said, and he readily confessed and implicated the other two men, who have likewise confessed.

Butler was found at approximately 8:55 a.m., that day, burned, bound and gagged in the bathtub of her single-level home located at 2253 Country Club Drive in LaPlace.

Butler was found by a male friend, who called the 911 Center before seeking help at the home of Butler’s neighbor.

Authorities believe Butler’s house was intentionally set on fire to destroy evidence of the murder. Soot containing footprints of the possible murderer was discovered by local firemen responding to the call. The fire marshal removed remnants of carpet and buckets of soot from the home.

Several articles were taken from the home of Butler, including her black Ford Mustang convertible, for further investigation.

Some of the evidence from the crime scene is still being analyzed by the Louisiana State Police Crime Lab, Jones said.

Butler’s pet cat was rescued unharmed. However, her dog was removed in a body bag. It was unclear at the time if the dog died in the fire or if it was killed by the perpetrator.