A murder case has many layers: the victim, the crime, and the investigation. To truly understand it, you need to dissect each piece of a tragic puzzle. Join Anna-Sigga Nicolazzi and Scott Weinberger every Wednesday for an insider’s perspective, as they reveal to you the Anatomy of Murder.
Wed, 14 Jul 2021 07:00
A dad doesn’t show up for lunch with his daughter. She knows something is very wrong, but will anyone listen? For episode information and photos, please visit https://anatomyofmurder.com/
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Grab your copy of all good people here now, wherever books are sold. So many people around you. We're acting like they care. I wanna tell your story on the news that I help you find your dad. But it just felt like no one cared at all. It was so much anxiety, so much stress, so much because instation like, I lost my dad. You're supposed to go to lunch and you never showed up. I'm Scott Weinberger's, investigative journalist and former deputy sheriff. Quazi former New York City homicide prosecutor and host of Investigation Discovery's true conviction, and this is anatomy of murder. Today's case showed me an incredible, unbreakable bond between father and daughter. You know, it brought out so many emotions and I'm sure many of you will feel the same way by the end. Our story today is going to focus on Charles Butler, who while he raised his family in Florida, he grew up and had strong ties to New York City. And I spoke with his daughter, Molly. My dad was goofy. More than anything. He loved to make people laugh. He loved to be the center of attention. We have a joke in my family. We would call it the mayor of Lake Mary, which is the city that we grew up in. Anytime we went somewhere, people inevitably knew him. Like everywhere we went and we had the joke that he would walk into a place maybe knowing like four or five people. But by the time he left, he knew everyone in the joy. The 46 year old native New Yorker grew up in Queens and moved to Florida in his mid 20s. He got married, had three kids, but his goal was always to move back home. That's where his heart was. He just loved New York City. We would go up there on family vacations at least once or twice a year, and he's just very enthusiastic about things. We would walk down the street and he's like, Can you imagine living up in there in that apartment? And you come downstairs and they already have your coffee order ready for you, like waiting on the counter. And then at lunchtime, you go grab a sandwich from this little deli and you go to the park and you eat it. You're watching all the people and just you made us really feel like we had kind of already lived there. Charles had three children and his oldest daughter. Was Molly? It was so cool being a little kid and being able to visualize things like that. You know, we think about New York City in general. You know, it's like bright lights, big city. You know, it is the land of dreams. And so while so many people come here searching for something, hoping to make their dreams come to life, that certainly was true of Charles Butler. I grew up in Queens and followed my family to Florida, where I lived for many, many years, returning to New York to work as a reporter for NBC here. But I always considered myself a New Yorker and always thought over the years about coming home. And I could totally relate the way Charles felt, that constant feeling of wanting to be back in New York. When I got older, I did hair. I knew I wanted to do hair from the time I was like 12 years old. And my biggest dream ever was like, OK, you know that you've really made it when you become a New York City hairstylist. To all his kids, he hoped that they would one day end up in New York City, and the first one that made that dream a reality was his daughter, Molly. Me and my best friend moved up. I got my best friend to go with me about like 2 weeks before I moved. She decided to come. So we got a two-bedroom apartment. She had a room and I had a room. But when she came up to New York, that meant very often. Her dad came, too. But one of the rooms had a bug bed in it and the plan was my dad was going to come up about one weekend every month, which ended up being like three weeks out of the month. We were not so happy about it, but we had a good time then the less. You know, just the way Molly describes the relationship is so endearing. I mean, you could just hear the love in her voice. It was clear she was on her way and her dad was getting a front row seat. Now, even though Charles had a successful insurance business still up and running in Florida, he had his own ambitions to open up a New York City tour guide business. And with Charles himself being the actual guide, he was so knowledgeable about the rich history of New York City, he felt that was his calling. My dad, I spoke almost daily. We were very connected, like the way that a parent just kind of steps up and says like, no, we'll figure this out. Like if this is your dream, we need to figure out how to do it, which is kind of, you know, unusual. I don't know any of my other friends, parents that kind of take that stance, like, no, do the logical thing and the right thing and the smart thing and the same thing. But with me it was like dream and dream bigger and dream bigger and figure out how to do it. So while the allure of New York City is always bright lights, Big City New York also has a dangerous underbelly. And just two months into the move, things would take an unexpected and dark turn. He was coming up for the weekend to go to the San Gennaro feast in Little Italy. We went to dinner a few nights, we went to the feast on Sunday, and then Monday night he came home kind of late. He was out, I think, with a different friend. And my dad and I had like our I didn't know it at the time, but our last conversation on Monday night. Just a few months before Molly moved to New York City, her dad met a woman in New York City he could not wait to tell her about, met her on a dating website. He loves that, you know, she was Russian Jew, just like his mom. She was musical, she was smart, she was in, you know IT tech world. Her name was Anna, who immigrated herself from Russia. And they were dating for a few months, mostly, just like on FaceTime and stuff. He had flown up to see her a few times, but nothing too long or anything. And he was quickly growing attached to her. In fact, it was spending time with Anna that gave him another reason for extending his trips to New York City while Molly was finding her way. Anna lived in a section of New York City in Brooklyn known as Brighton Beach. And let me just paint a visual for you of this place. You know, it's known as Little Odessa and that is because it has a very tight knit Russian Eastern European community. It's right by the Coney Island amusement parks. Part of it is on the water. So you have the ocean and it is a very lively place. It's full of ethnic restaurants that are lining the major streets along with multiple food markets. So just think about Charles Butler who. Had this zest and love for New York City, so when you think about the vibrancy of Brighton beach, well, that's going to be right up his alley. I had never seen my dad in relationship the way that I saw him with her. Like I've seen my dad date a bunch of different when he had a couple longer term girlfriends after my mom. But when he got with her it was honestly watching like like a high school couple like in Puppy love. We would like sit across from them at their restaurant and they would be whispering and giggling and each other's ear. While she had seen him with other women over the years since his divorce with Anna, things were different and things were serious and Molly was so happy for him. He had told me when he was like, I found my queen, they were talking about getting married pretty early on. And so that night Charles was going to Anna's house for the first night and she was going to cook him dinner. We had made plans to go to lunch on Wednesday. That never happened. When she was unable to reach him the next morning, call after call went unanswered. She felt it in her heart that something was definitely wrong. OK, all throughout that day and even that night on Tuesday and then Wednesday messaged him. I got a text back, but like we have I messages together. So all of our messages were like blue and white, and when this message came in it was green, which was unusual and the text itself was just really weird. It said OK honey, but the way that OK was spelled like Capital O Capital K with periods in between. But I'd never typed like that. And he called me honey, which he he has many nicknames for me, but it was never funny. You know, you get a text like this and right away anyone knows if you're used to speaking to someone all the time, you're going to know if something just doesn't seem like the way that they usually communicate with you. And he said I wasn't feeling good, but he spelt it FILLING like I wasn't feeling good. And he said he had a party. But you know, right away, just the things that we've already heard. I already started to tick off the various things that it could be. At least you have to consider, right? Maybe he is upset about something. I mean, he is a guy who. By Molly's accounts, he liked to party. He was a bit of a partier, so maybe he'd been out drinking the night before, had a tough night. And we also know what it can be like if you get preoccupied with something, you know your head is somewhere else, but you're also still typing on that phone. I just remember looking like, what is he talking about? First of all, he had a party. It would have been at my house and I would have been with him. We don't really know that many other people. Like we had just moved up there and it was just a weird text and then things kind of progressed from there. Molly is already concerned by the fact that he didn't answer his phone and then add a little bit more of unusual activity in that text message. So presumably if he's texting he would be able to pick up the phone. That stands out to me. Alarm bells definitely went off, but I was so busy in the moment that I was kind of just like, OK, whatever. Like maybe they partied a little too hard last night, maybe you hung up or whatever and I, like, went out to go do my haircut. And then when I came back I looked at the text again and got a really bad feeling. Right after I saw the text, I tried to call him and the phone was off, and I called him probably like four or five times that day and his phone was just off the whole time. Which again is unusual because my dad is the kind of guy like if his phone was gonna die when he wasn't near a charger, he would literally go buy another $35 charger just so his phone doesn't die. Like we would go to bars and he would ask the bartender to use their chargers, like he would never let his phone die. So it's really, really unusual. You know, in most cases someone just falls off the grid. They normally return with some sort of reason while they were out of contact. But the hardest part for the loved one is that time in between the contacts. And right in that moment, my dad's employee down in Florida at the insurance company called me and she was like, he didn't show up and he wasn't answering his phone and nobody can get ahold of him. And again, this was not like my dad. My dad was like on top of everything. And I just, I got this sinking feeling like I just knew, like something was off, like something was wrong. Think things will be fine, and obviously in most cases they are Molly scrambling for answers which brought her right to Anna's front door. I don't have any way to get ahold of her. So I found a way to, like, break into his iPad at home and find her e-mail address. And I emailed her. I let her know it was me. I was like, hey, you're the last person that he was with on Tuesday night. We still haven't heard from him. It's Friday. I'm going to call the police in the morning. She called me like, 7:00 o'clock in the morning on Saturday. And that was the exact moment that Molly knew for sure that something wasn't right. She was shocked. She was a little confused. Like she didn't know what was going on. She was like, he left on Wednesday when I left for work. And I was like, well, he never came home to have you talked to him? And she said, yeah, we talked a little bit on Wednesday, you know, we were sending texts back and forth. And then in the afternoon he broke up with me. They said, what do you mean he broke up with you? And she said, I got some really weird texts later on in the day. It didn't sound like him. After days of not hearing from her father, Charles, Molly had confronted his girlfriend, Anna, who was the woman he spent the night with. The morning he went missing, and that conversation brought more questions than answers. I said, what do you mean he broke up with you? And she said I got some really weird text. He said he was going to go back to Florida because he had business to take care of and not to worry about him for three days. He said three days, just like everything about it was really weird. Think about this from the perspective of both these women, right? So Molly, the daughter, I can only picture the, you know, the head turned. What? My father is so in love with this woman. He says he's going to marry her, and now he's breaking up with her and via text. And from Anna's perspective, you know, she meets this guy who basically comes into town from Florida regularly, basically sweeping her off her feet, and says he wants to have a life with her. And all I can imagine she's thinking is, I don't know, did she just completely misread him or misjudge? I mean, let's remember he is a guy in his late 40s or something about something midlife going on here. At least from her perspective, for both these women, nothing seems right. They said, OK, something's going on. I said I'm going to hang up and call the police. So I can see the text ad is getting from both perspectives. Perhaps it's true and the texts are real, or someone is posing as Charles, or perhaps Anna herself is involved in the disappearance. It takes her about an hour and a half to get to my apartment. She lives kind of far. And in the meantime, I called the police. They showed up at my apartment. I had talked to two different deputies. They didn't really take it seriously. Apparently, a lot of people go missing in New York every day. So they were just like, Oh no, like, he doesn't have a mental instability and he's self-sufficient and, you know, he's probably just out on the beach somewhere and, like, didn't want his phone. It is protocol at the NYPD that a missing persons report be taken by the officers in the borough, that the person is last seen in their life since he was last seen in Brooklyn at her house in Brighton Beach. You can go to the Brooklyn NYPD and get them to do a Wellness check at her house. So then the conversation between Anna and Molly got even stranger. So when I waited for her to get to the apartment, I told her what happened. She was telling me that she got these weird texts and I said, can you show me the text? You said I got some weird texts too. Can you show me yours? She was all don't know. I already deleted them. Honestly, I'm having a hard time with that. I mean, look, she knows what's going on here, the man she's considering marrying is missing, and the last communications you have with him you decide to erase. But when she deleted them, she didn't necessarily know he was missing, right? And I had asked Anna, I'm like, you know, how many texts did you guys exchange on that Wednesday? And she said, oh, about four or five. I'm like, why did you delete them? And she said, oh, I didn't want to remind myself of the heartbreak. But of course, if you look at it from the other side, well, why would you delete them? Is it because of that? Or is it because you're hiding something? Or are you lying and you never got them at all? The whole time she has like no emotion on her face, which I know. Like, I worked with a lot of people from Russia, and I do know that facial expressions and stuff are different, like our cultures are just different. But I just thought it was so weird that it just wasn't phasing her for some reason. And I was like, why aren't you worried? Like my dad is missing? OK, so yes, two very different cultures and people react differently in many situations. While I see this as a tick in one column, that suspicious column is getting pretty full. At this point, my best friend and I decided that we were going to ride to Brooklyn and talk to those cops. We knew it was about an hour and a half subway ride. So before we got on the subway, we walked over to the AT&T store and I had them print out all of my dad's phone records. So I wanted to see who he was texting, who he was calling, how many messages were sent. I'm looking at all these phone records, and I'm noticing there's they sent like 14 or 15 messages to each other. Like that's a big difference from four or five. You know, but here I agree with Molly. A big difference between 5 and 15 texts. And there was like pictures and stuff that were sent. Like you said, SMS messages like pictures were sent stuff. And I just started getting a bad feeling. She kept pretending like she was going to recover the text messages. Like even when we went to AT&T, I was going along with it so that she didn't get suspicious with me being suspicious of her. So I just followed my gut and I told her, I said, hey, me and Amanda have a friend are going to get off and go to the Police Department. I think you should go home and try to recover those texts and then we'll meet you there after she said, OK. If you're working the theory that Anna is involved, then not leading her to believe you're suspicious is the right move. You know, keep the information coming. And it appeared that every time they spoke, Molly was learning new information. I couldn't make sense of anything that was going on. I didn't know if, like, maybe she was in on something, but I also couldn't understand if she was in on something to do something to my dad. Why wouldn't she wait until she got married? Because, like, she's not going to get anything out of this. My dad was dying or missing. Now so many different things are going through my head. Really, Molly wants to keep that relationship, those lines of communication, open, so that also may mean holding back on some of her inner thoughts. We get to the police station. I tell them everything is going on. I show them the text messages from my phone. And I was speaking to a Russian cop and she had said this was definitely a Russian talking to you. As we've said, Brighton Beach is a very large Russian community, and the NYPD strategically places officers who are fluent in Russian to cover that community, and this is one of those times that it pays off. There's something going on. This is not the way that your dad normally text, she said. Has anyone done a Wellness check at Anna's house yet? I said no, I don't. She's like, why not? So her and one other cop drove over to her house and they said, you can come with us, but you can't ride with us in the car. So we had to get back on the subway. By the time we get to her house, they were already done talking to Anna. She was very calm. She like made us food all nonchalantly, like she was having like a normal calm day. It was really weird. And they totally changed their tune by the time we got there. And they said, oh, your dad probably is just like sitting on a beach somewhere just trying to get a break from his life. I bet if you go home, he'll be sitting on your couch in Manhattan. I love them. I just kind of like broke down. They ended up leaving. In the meantime, I was calling every single hospital within like a 200 mile radius looking for either my dad or anyone you know, John Doe that fits my dad's description. I called every single jail too. Maybe he got arrested or something. We didn't know. She really is ticking off so many of the right boxes. If you're not getting help from the normal lines, you can go to your Congress representative to tell them, hey. I need some help here. She must have had some sort of a common account. Maybe it was her father's business account, so all their phones are on the same lines. So she was able to go and get those phone records to try to see for herself what was happening. These are all smart avenues to go down when you're trying to figure out the where someone might be. So without any answers and full of frustration, Molly's next step was to find someone with investigative experience on the case. Then I started calling around for private investigators. We found this guy's the best of the best. He used to be CIA like FDA, like, I don't know, really high up there in private investigating. We got on the phone. I told him all the details. I told him, you know, my dad lives in Florida. He something in New York. And after a while he was like, wait, what is your dad's name? And I said Chuck Butler. And you said get out of town. What is your dad's name? And I said Chuck Butler, and he said, get out of town. He said, Molly, my name is Keith and I used to rent office space from your dad. Are you kidding? He said I will be in New York in 12 hours. And sure enough, he was there within 12 hours because people that he works with and he started really getting on the case and then he kind of took over from there. Let's talk about private investigators for a moment. You know, if they're good they could be a really effective way to get information and answers. You know, most are former military or police and they're skilled in doing interviews. But of course you know as a prosecutor and and most law enforcement would also say is, you know, they don't have to play by the same rules. They are not bound by the rules that out I have to go into a courtroom and show that things were obtained by while they do get in the way sometimes of investigations I've always found this. A family deserves to do everything they can possible to get answers. Absolutely you want that family to get answers. But it starts to unfortunately very often impact a case, or at least potentially, about the way they gather that information and whether we can then be using it in a courtroom in the end. And if we can't use it, that sometimes means we lose it. Molly is now completely entwined in this case. Desperate to find her father, she finally gets a lead, and it's disturbing. I got another call from my dad's employee. She was very close with my dad. She had worked for him for like 13 years and she said, Molly, about a month ago, Anna's ex-husband called your dad from Anna's phone and was basically just saying like, she's my woman. Back off. And my dad has said like this one, this is none of your business. And finding out about that phone call took this case down a completely different trail. They had already been divorced for like 5 years. And my dad told Anna about it and she confronted her ex. And her ex apparently said, you know, I'm sorry and I was drunk and and then no one ever heard from him again. Like there was just never an issue. So now you have an X in the mix and that really changes things, Scott, you know, because when you hear this, did it make you suspect Anna? More or less well, this unwraps the mode of box for me. I mean a jealous ex would now be on my list for sure to interview. It also continues I think, questions about Anna and why didn't she bring this up? Tell me about your ex-husband. Like what? What's going on with him? Like something bad happened. So I started asking her about it and she said, Oh no, no, no. He's a good man. Well, the ex, his name was Mikhail Chernyaev. He was a construction worker from Russia who had been in the military. He was 49 years old, and he and Anna shared a child. They had a son who was about 7 years old at the time. And so while this couple had been broken up for years, they were still really close. They had never been legally married, so they were common law, but they were still very much in one another's lives. She called them and she's sitting on my couch and sitting next to her and I can't tell anything. They're saying there's no inflection in the voice. It's all like very monotone and they're speaking Russian, like can't tell anything they're saying and the first thing that she says when they get off the phone and she said. He has an alibi. Massive an alibi. So he has an alibi. He was at work that day. That was just like Red flag galore for me. Cause who says that? Who says that they have an alibi if they didn't do anything? So you may be asking a question. Do innocent people use the term alibi? I mean, is it suspicious, you know? Well, if they watch true crime shows or listen to true crime podcasts, perhaps. But anesthesia? I'd love to know more about the ex and what his alleged alibi could be. And that was the question that really everyone had, including the private investigator that was working on the case. Then sometime later, the private investigator came to Molly with a very specific request. One of the first things that the private investigator had said was stop all contact with Anna because he went to go speak to Anna and he found a man's watch that was not my dad's in her little foyer part. Like she has this like ledge where, you know, you dropped your keys and stuff and come to find out it was her ex-husband and he started talking to her about it and she was talking to her ex-husband all the time. They're having dinner again and they're like kind of dating again, like pretty short after. My dad had left and when he talked to her she had said Chuck broke my heart and you know, he left me and Michael's been here and so right away he had said stop all contact with Anna, basically like she's sleeping with the enemy. Information goes both ways as far as I see it, and by talking with Anna, Molly could say something. Then investigators want to keep close to the vest, or he thinks she might be involved or two. She is now with someone who very well may be the actual reason that Charles Butler has disappeared. So whichever way it's going to pan out, it seems that the best thing to do is just break those ties and have nothing to do with Anna, at least for them. You know, I stopped all contact with her. I get little updates from Keith every now and then. It's like, OK, I'm going to try to get the cameras from the apartment, I'm going to try to get the cameras from the subway station and, you know, just trying to find all these things, but nothing's really happening. For everyone's time, really sort of stood still, so while it ticked away, they weren't getting any answers for quite a while. And then about five weeks after, Keith came to tell me that my dad's not coming back. He knows for sure that he's dead, but he can't tell me how. He can't tell me details, but he knows that he's not coming back. You know, you wonder, why would the private investigators say that? And I really just come down to. I really think he's just trying to set her up for what he sees as unfortunately, the inevitable answer, Charles Butler just isn't coming back. And while this daughter is doing everything in her power to find her father, he doesn't want her to have unrealistic expectations that will crush her anymore than where she thinks her emotions are already going to land. The second he told me that my dad's not coming back, my life turned into like a Charlie Brown episode. Like everything he said after that, I honestly don't remember. I had ringing in my ears. I just fell to the ground. Honestly, it was like a train wreck over and over and over. I, like was tired all the time, but I couldn't sleep. I just kept my TV on 24 hours a day. I kept my curtains drawn. It was like dark in my apartment and I just tried to zone out because my mind was a mess. You know, there is no class or course you can take that will prepare you in dealing with the family of a homicide victim. You know, perhaps the best way is to just be honest. You know, they don't want you to sugarcoat anything, as hurtful as it may be. They want answers. So I'm thinking all different kinds of like, what if we never find him? What if we never find out what happens? Like, is this just it for the rest of my life? I'm going to wonder if he's alive where he's at, if someone has him. And this torturing him if just so many. Like the darkest of the darkest of the darkest thoughts. You know, we just got a true inside look of how survivors feel. That incredible pain. Well, it's supposed to make all of us. Speechless. We had gone through Thanksgiving, Christmas. My birthday is on New Year's Day, my sister's birthday is on January 29th and my dad's birthday is on February 2nd. So not only did he go missing, but it was like the most amount of holidays and birthdays you can have in one time while not knowing. But by the time we got to my dad's birthday at that point, it had been about four or five months. We knew that he was dead. We didn't have any answers. We figured my dad had always said when he was alive that when he dies, he wants it to be a celebration of life. We didn't think that we can go through his birthday without doing something, so we decided to do a memorial service on his birthday. It was the weirdest thing ever, because how do you give a funeral for someone that you kind of know that died, but you like, don't know for sure? For sure you don't even have a body. So the calendar is just flying by at this point, and there's no answers, but there's also really not a case because no one knows where. There is. Not only that, Charles Butler is gone, but there's no evidence of where, why, how. We all knew that it was her ex-husband. There's no way to like, prove it. But the case really just sits there, stagnant for a while. These cases move based on leads, evidence, and oftentimes a bit of guesswork, and that is not always done in the public eye. A true cold case is when leads meet dead ends and without further information the folder as you said in the saga just unfortunately gathers dust. But then they get an idea of how to get the case back moving and Scott this goes back into one of your areas of expertise. The decision really was to go to the media and try to get attention to the fact that this was a missing cold case. OK, obviously New York State does not give a crap about anything that's going on. They just don't care. They're too busy. This isn't a big enough case. Whatever. Our pride of investigator did come from the angle of if we can make people in Florida care. Because my dad, like I said, we called him the mayor. Like Mary, even though I'm the mayor. Everybody knew him and we knew that if we can make it a big deal in Florida and get more eyes and more people to care, then maybe New York would pick it up. They were hoping that the public could help. And you know, if you're gonna approach members of the media and you really, in a sense want to get them interested in a story, sometimes you develop it into sort of a headline for something like this, like Florida businessman missing. Could it be related to a Russian love triangle? Ultimately, you get their attention, but sometimes getting their attention may become overwhelming. Couple months there of like going back and forth and really trying to find the right person to cover it to you. Because so many people were just so fascinated by the story and everybody was making presumptions about Anna and all these different things when we kind of knew, like, Anna probably didn't have anything to do with it, but we did think it was her ex-husband, but we also don't want to make it too big. And then he finds out and then runs away like it was. It had to be very, very, very strategic. And then finally by May is when we found the right news. Record to do it, which was Chris Heath. He did a very good justice of like explaining family and the story and whatever, and it aired in Florida on a Monday and then on Tuesday I got a call from New York news crews wanting to show it on theirs. And on Wednesday, Molly found out exactly what happened to her dad. For months, Charles Butler remained a missing person, presumed dead. But no one, not the family or police, had actual proof of that. But just one day, after a splash of news stories and headlines in New York and in Florida, the disappearance got exactly the type of media attention that Molly was looking for. It felt like 1 long day. It was like a whirlwind. That day they found my dad's body and we found out that they had my dad's body since Week 5. So remember, he went missing in September of 2012? Well, a little over a month later in October, there was a fisherman upstate in an area called Port Jervis in New York. And he gets lost, I mean completely lost. And he ends up in this area over by a ditch when he sees something. And that's something he sees is a body that had clearly been there for a while. So we hiked 2 miles up to the police station, the nearest police station, and told them about it. But the sun was already going down, so he slept in the police station and took him to the body the next morning. Support Jarvis is about 100 miles away from Brighton Beach, where the crime scene allegedly was, and the way it was described where the body was found. It wasn't apparently just tossed over an embankment. It appeared that whoever left the body there had to carry it down and place it somewhere it would likely never be found. But that's not what happened. Now, this body had been out in the elements for some time. They had no idea initially for how long. So a state trooper who was called in one of the first people to get this call, he made it his mission to give this John Doe a name. So he had the skull. This body had been there out in the elements and was very decomposed to the point that they couldn't even come up with A cause of death. And the skull then ended up literally sitting on a desk while a forensic artist started to make a composite sketch. The state trooper then took this sketch and he literally started going through all the missing person cases in New York State. And unfortunately I can tell you that is a lot when after a while he actually saw a picture of Charles. Butler and Boom, he said. This sketch in my hand looks just like the guy in the photograph. So then he then contacts New York City, gives them his theory that he thinks he may have this person who's missing any ashra comparison to be done. So then New York State investigators get involved and they get DNA from the Butler family, and between the DNA and a fingerprint, they end up with a match. And it's Charles Butler. And that's the only reason we have my dad's body. You know, we have met some incredible, determined investigators and prosecutors through our podcast, this guy definitely top five list. When they start to look at this, they now have him found. And remember those cell phone records that Molly Butler had gotten way back when will? Now police are analyzing those, and they're not only analyzing those, but Anas the girlfriend as well. They then do what is called cell site locations where they're literally tracking where those calls are being made from and what do they see? They literally see those cell sites. Coming back to both Charles Butler's phone and Mikhail Chernyaev side by side, literally going from Brooklyn to Port Jervis and the back. You have two elements of science here, obviously. The forensic science of using that skull in determining an ID. And then you have some of my favorite evidence, which is digital evidence. And to be able to walk into a courtroom, short for you, and to show a pinpoint location of two phones, active phones registered to two people who one being the missing and one who is the accused being in the same place. I mean, that's really hard to get away from. And it does start to fit into these texts that the English appeared to be a bit broken. It wasn't the type of vernacular, the way that her father was speak to her. But here's another really interesting piece that investigators were able to piece together. We'll Anna's building had surveillance footage that would literally show the front of her building. And that morning after Charles Butler disappeared, well, at 7:40 AM and left with their young son at 744, you see Michael Chernoff's. Van pull into the garage and an hour and a half later the van pulled out. Investigators were able to go back to the people who had the camera across the street, only to learn that Chernyaev had visited them a few days before the crime occurred and asking them if he could take a look at the video and where the angles of the cameras were. Because his car was, you know, constantly being broken into and he really wanted to know, investigators believe, what the cameras could show. So when he was planning this homicide, he would know what cameras may capture him and be evidence against him. That's strong circumstantial evidence. All those phone calls that were being made both from Charles Butler's quote UN quote phone and Mikhail Chernyaev to his girlfriend and the one to Molly Butler and her brother and sister, well, they were all coming from one phone. So what turnip would have had to have done was be playing with the two SIM cards Charles Butler's and his own and taking them in and out of the phone as he was placing the calls to the two different parties. I mean, just think about that really goes into a trying to cover up. Evidence of a crime in our world, we call it conscious of guilt, and prosecutors love having that type of evidence when we go into the courtroom. It was a lot. It was really, really frustrating. You didn't have time to think or process. It was just every minute someone's calling me. You know, as soon as the story went live in Florida, I got, you know, 15 more calls from new thinkers also wanting to cover the story. And then I got 25 calls from people in New York wanting to interview me there. And I'm still trying to just process that. We found my dad's body, and it felt like nobody really understood, like my own personal process as a human of like, wait. This is my dad. I've waited nine months. I'm finally finding out, and I don't even have two seconds to breathe before I need to, like, put on a brave face and go on the news. While this was a big story even for New York City, news is a competitive field and you know several stations vying for an exclusive interview. But there are a handful of professionals who know exactly how to handle family members, and there are some who are flat out insensitive. You know, they come in all shapes and sizes and it is truly unfortunate. It was so bad. I was thinking about taking my own life. It felt suffocating. So many people around you. Or acting like they care. And what I tell your story of the day is that when I help you find your dad. But it just felt like no one cared at all. It was the loveliest scariest. Crafting the feeling of all. It was so much anxiety, so much stress, so much devastation, like I lost my dad. We were supposed to go to lunch and you never showed up. And it was because some guy got too jealous and wanted to take his life. And like those parts of. Just like the human experience aren't addressed in that. You almost can't put into words what I or probably any of us feel hearing what Molly said. And it really comes down to sometimes I am so thankful for people they do meet and family members like Molly are ultimately able to work with in a case like this. And it certainly was the case here. And I almost feel like I need to bring it up here because, you know, I know the prosecutor on this case and I remember the hours that she and Molly would spend on the phone. And, you know, I'd go into the office because, remember, it was a Brooklyn case where it was. And I would literally be shooed away and I knew that she was speaking to the family member from Florida on this case and after she would just say, you know, I cannot imagine what this woman is going through. When we talked, we definitely talked for a long time. I could tell that she not only cared about, like, actually defending us, but she also just, like, personally cared about the story a lot, which was really cool. Each piece is fascinating evidence in and of itself, but what it does is it enables investigators to now decide they have enough to bring Michael Chernov in and when they sit down, he's willing to talk. He says in his confession. I watched them overnight, so I was really angry. I went into my place, I drank a bottle of vodka. I waited for her to go to work in the morning, parked my van in the back of her apartment, and I went to just go talk to him. He knocked on the door. My dad answered. So he like, walks into the foyer and he's like, you know, aggressing towards my dad. My dad's walking backwards and then my dad grabs the knife and he grabs the knife out of my dad's hand, stabs him, and this guy jumps on top of him and puts one hand on his mouth. One hand on his chest and in his confession, he says he holds it for three to five minutes. He takes my dad's body down to the van and cleans up the entire apartment like spotless. So let's put the pieces together of what he may have really been doing. We know that he had a SIM card from Charles in his phone and he was posing as Charles. So way back in the beginning when Anna was getting those text messages that he wanted to break up with her. Now it's looking more and more that Anna may be less involved or not involved at all in the disappearance and a homicide of Charles. Prosecutors in Brooklyn walked into the trial phase with a really solid case. Defense would counter with a claim of self-defense, and after days of testimony, including mollies, the twists in this case continued. We did go through an entire trial Monday through Friday for 2 1/2 weeks, 8 in the morning to 5:00 o'clock at night, listening to every single little gory detail about all the phone records, about the confession tapes, all the testimonies, literally everything. And then right before they send the jury away to figure out what they want to decide, that's when he decided to take a plea. And that almost never happens, not at that stage in the trial. It is usually, if there's going to be a plea, it is before the evidence starts to go in and then that's it. It's going to be up to the jury to decide. But here, and I remember the prosecutor agonizing over what to do. We found out that the difference was if he takes a plea. He has to admit what he did out of his own mouth. If the jury convicts him, they just sentenced him and he leaves. So, you know, there's three of us, me and my brother and sister were all talking, and they had both felt very strongly like we want to hear him admit it out of his mouth. So that was the only reason we ended up taking the plea. And then, unfortunately, he kind of got out of that too. So he pled guilty and then they came back for sentencing. And rather than be sentenced, Chernov gets up in the courtroom and says he wants his plea back. Now, that really almost never happens in a case like this. Sure, it happens at different times, but the reason he gives, he says because he didn't understand what was being said. Remember, he is a native Russian speaker and he says that he didn't understand everything that was being said in English. And everyone is literally furious because the whole trial was done in English and he always was talking in English. But now he says sorry, I didn't understand. So while angry, no one wants us to come back, everyone. That's finality one way or the other, especially for the Butler family. So he is allowed to take his plea back, and besides the disappointment that means now that this trial has to happen all over again. Talk about twists and turns. That is a full 180 U-turn. I mean, you may need some Dramamine after this. It was like the most defeated I've ever felt, I think. Prosecutors went in, the defendant, the defense, the judge. They had a new jury. The evidence every witness came back in and testified all over again, and this time the case went to the jury. They had such a strong circumstantial case. They presented such compelling evidence. And of course, the defense was always talking about self-defense, about him trying to protect himself, that Charles had attacked him. And you know, the jury was wrestling with all of this information, but not really for too long, because when they came back, he was found guilty, sentenced to 25 years, to life. You know, my relationship with my dad was so, so special. He never really. Punished me when I did something wrong. He would talk to me like an adult and say, like, how does it feel that you made this mistake and what would you do better next time? And and then you would always really, really push for my dream, you know? What are your dreams and how can we dream even bigger? And then how can we set up the goals to help you achieve those things? And no matter what I did, he was just always right behind me. What Charles Butler gave to his daughter, to Molly, was that inner strength to see the light again and to even get through this devastation, being whitler strong. TuneIn next Wednesday, when we'll dissect another new case on anatomy of murder. Enemy of Murder is an audio Chuck original, A Weinberger media and forseti media production summit. David is executive producer.