Murder on the Battenkill Rare homicide shocked community in 2017

ARLINGTON — The violent death of Helen Jones in her home last January shook this community. A suspect arrested in connection with the stabbing of the 81-year-old woman faces murder and burglary charges, with the case set to be ready for trial in the summer. The charges against the Sunderland man carry a maximum prison term of 35 years to life.

Timothy J. Butler, 32, used to mow lawns and carry out odd jobs for Jones, according to authorities, who said he was identified as a suspect early on in their investigation. The Sunderland man has been held in prison since his March 8 arrest. Vermont Superior Court Judge David A. Howard approved a trial schedule on Oct. 30. An eight-day trial is scheduled for August.

Forensic evidence in the case is still under review. A massive volume of investigative material had to be reviewed by the state to turn over to the defense counsel. A status conference is scheduled for Jan. 12.

Bennington County State's Attorney Erica Marthage is expected to prosecute the case. Butler is represented by Brian Marsicovetere, with the Serious Felony Unit of the Office of the Defender General.

Jones was found dead in her home on Jan. 4, but police believe the burglary and stabbing took place two days prior.

Jones, who was born in Cloontia, Ireland, was a member of St. Margaret Mary, Christ Our Savior Parish in Arlington, according to her obituary.

Neighbors described Jones as a kind woman and say they were stunned about the event in their close-knit neighborhood, located on a dirt road very close to Arlington Memorial High School.

Jones for years helped care for the elderly, Margot Page of Sunderland told the Banner in January. "She also was also brave enough and kind enough to sit with people who were dying," Page said. "It's terrifying to think her life came to a violent end," she added.

"I would like to just say that 'thank you' doesn't seem enough to local and state law enforcement, the victim's advocacy, the state's attorney, and most importantly the current and former residents of Arlington for their outstanding support to this family," said Teresa Jones, one of the victim's daughters, following Butler's court appearance on March 10.

Troopers were called to the Buck Hill Road home the night of Jan. 4 for an untimely death discovered during a welfare check, where on-scene EMS reported "inconsistencies" with the death.

Investigators found evidence that the home had been broken into: The main door had a broken pane of glass and door jamb was freshly splintered. An autopsy later found the victim was stabbed numerous times. According to the affidavit, no knife or other objects consistent with the wounds were left at the scene.

Neighbors told police they had either seen or spoken to Jones on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. One neighbor was contacted by one of Jones' family members who lived in another state and hadn't been able to reach Jones by phone since Jan. 2. That neighbor went to Jones' home just after 10 p.m. on Jan. 4 and found the victim on the floor.

In a Jan. 6 interview with investigators, Butler allegedly said he used to mow Jones' lawn, but had not for several years. He also said he was at Jones' home a couple weeks prior when he and a relative stopped to ask if she needed work done.

A detective returned to Butler's residence on North Road in Sunderland about six times over several weeks to collect a DNA sample. According to the affidavit, Butler never contacted the detective.

One individual who was close to Butler told police they noticed a scratch on his shoulder and said his behavior and demeanor changed after the homicide occurred. The same person said they were drinking together one night and Butler said, "My DNA will give me up." They also said that Butler started crying and kept saying, "I didn't mean to do it."

Investigators were granted a wire warrant and recorded conversations between the same individual and Butler. According to a court affidavit, Butler said he was supposed to go to a house to find someone "who was saying a bunch of stuff about him" and had gone to Jones' home by mistake. Butler said he stabbed the victim after she recognized him and called him by name and reached for the phone.

A large team included officers from around the state participating at various points with an intense investigation, "with at least 20 detectives at any given time," Maj. Glenn Hall, commander of the Criminal Division of Vermont State Police, said during a press conference after Butler's arraignment.

The case "was an example of how difficult this type of investigation can be," Hall added, referring to the lack of witnesses and that the victim lived alone and her death was not immediately discovered.

Marthage said the case had "remained a priority for all of the officers involved despite the passage of time and multiple other demands" on their time.

Butler pleaded not guilty at his March arraignment to first degree murder and a felony count of burglary into an occupied dwelling armed with a dangerous or deadly weapon. He has been detained at the Marble Valley Correctional Facility in Rutland.

Ed Damon can be reached at, at @edamon_banner on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 111.


If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.

Powered by Creative Circle Media Solutions