Man sentenced to 10 years in connection to Teresa Butler cold case

Updated: Jan. 10, 2020 at 11:34 AM CST
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NEW MADRID COUNTY, Mo. (KFVS) - A man was sentenced to 10 years in prison in connection to the Teresa Butler cold case.

Melvin Ray Hufford, 42, of Tallapoosa, Mo., pleaded guilty on Friday, January 10. He was sentenced to seven years for the Class C felony of manslaughter and three years for the Class D felony of tampering with physical evidence. Those sentences will run consecutively for a total of 10 years in prison.

He could have gotten up to 11 years in prison.

Hufford was charged with first-degree manslaughter for giving Teresa a fatal dose of methamphetamine and tampering with physical evidence for moving her body.

New Madrid County Sheriff Terry Stevens has been on Teresa Butler’s case since the beginning. He said he would have liked to have seen a stricter sentencing, but given the charges, it was the best they could get.

“I’m somewhat disappointed in the amount of time he received, but I understand that was the best we were going to get, so I am satisfied with it,” Sheriff Stevens said.

In November, New Madrid County officials arrested Hufford and he was taken to the Pemiscot County Jail awaiting trial on unrelated charges out of New Madrid County.

With his plea, Hufford admitted to injecting Butler with methamphetamine the night she died, wrapping her body in a tarp and taking it out of the house. Officials said he then stole some items from the home in an attempt to make it look like the Butlers had been robbed.

Authorities have called Hufford a person of interest in the case from the very beginning.

Teresa Butler, a 35-year-old mother, went missing from her home in Risco, Mo. in January 2006.

Teresa Butler went missing from Risco, Missouri, on Jan. 25, 2006.
Teresa Butler went missing from Risco, Missouri, on Jan. 25, 2006.

In court documents, Hufford laid out a disturbing story that started the night of Teresa’s disappearance.

Investigators say Hufford admitted to doing methamphetamine with Teresa and a second man at the Butler home on January 24, 2006.

Court records indicate Hufford injected both of them with the drug, then Teresa said her chest hurt. Hufford said Teresa soon passed out and then didn’t have a pulse.

According to authorities, Hufford said they “freaked out,” wrapped Teresa’s body in a tarp, then tried to make it look like someone robbed the home. Hufford recalled grabbing several items, including a camcorder authorities later fished out of a ditch in 2007.

He also allegedly admitted to putting Teresa’s body under the sink of an abandoned house in Tallapoosa, where it stayed for a couple of years.

On May 20, 2019, investigators looked for possible evidence in the home 4 miles south of Risco.

Teresa’s final resting place, according to Hufford, was a ditch south of Tallapoosa near County Road 253.

When we profiled Teresa’s case on Heartland Unsolved in March 2017, we learned police had identified and interviewed a suspect.

In December 2017, investigators searched for any evidence in the ditch.

Court documents indicate Teresa Butler’s remains have never been recovered.

Investigators and family said from the beginning that Teresa would have never willingly left her home that night, leaving her two and four-year-old sons home alone. According to the charges leveled against Melvin Ray Hufford, we now know she didn’t.

The 13-year-old cold case has been a personal one for investigators, especially New Madrid County Sheriff Terry Stevens.

He kept a photo of Teresa in his office.

She went missing from his hometown of Risco, he said, and on his watch.

Stevens has often said the answer to her disappearance would come from New Madrid County.

The arrest of Melvin Hufford is something he called the pinnacle of his long, law enforcement career.

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