Frustrating search for woman’s remains leads police to N.Va.

WASHINGTON — The plea agreement that ended the mystery about what happened to Pamela Butler, who was last seen outside her Brightwood apartment in D.C. eight years ago, was contingent upon her boyfriend helping investigators find Butler’s remains. But that goal is proving elusive.

WTOP has learned D.C police detectives have been searching for Butler’s remains along a highway in northern Virginia, and recently brought Jose Rodriguez-Cruz, 52, to the location to aid in the search.

Butler’s remains still haven’t been found.

Sources say they believe Butler was buried in a shallow grave near the highway.

WTOP is not providing specifics of the search location to avoid the possibility of evidence tampering.

On Oct. 6, Rodriguez-Cruz pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for the 2009 death and disappearance of Butler. She was declared dead in 2016.

Rodriguez-Cruz was sentenced to 12 years in prison earlier this month.

Under the plea agreement, if Rodriguez-Cruz fails to make a good-faith effort to locate Butler’s  remains or if he attempts to mislead investigators, the plea deal would be withdrawn, and he would face the original charge of first-degree murder.

At the time of his plea, prosecutors asked the judge to sentence Rodriguez-Cruz immediately, to allow time for the search before winter arrives, when cold temperatures could make it more difficult to recover any remains.

After the plea and sentencing, Butler’s mother and brother said finding Pamela Butler’s remains, so she could be buried, was their prime objective.

D.C. police and prosecutors declined comment, citing the ongoing investigation.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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