WILLIAMSPORT – The girlfriend of the mother of two young girls whose suspected remains were exhumed over the weekend in Lycoming County has admitted to having knowledge of their deaths.
Echo Lane Butler, 26, interviewed by Old Lycoming Twp. police over the disappearance of Nicole Elizabeth and Jasmine Jean Snyder, said they “knew the truth about their situation”.
The confession is contained in an arrest affidavit released Monday in support of charges against Butler of endangering child welfare and obstruction in child abuse cases.
Also on Monday, township police chief Christopher Kriner said it was determined that Nicole was killed or died in 2016 and her sister in 2017.
Neither he nor District Attorney Ryan C. Gardner would comment on how they came to that conclusion. Nicole would have been 6 in 2016 and Jasmine 4 in 2017, said the chef.
The remains were found in graves about 2 feet deep near the back of the residence where their mother Marie Sue Snyder and Butler lived about four miles north of Williamsport.
Gardner did not say how authorities knew where to look, but state police are known to have brought a dead dog.
The remains were airlifted to a forensic anthropologist in Erie to help determine the mode and time of death. It is hoped that the DNA will provide a positive identification, said Deputy Chief Coroner Jerold Ross.
He did not disclose the condition of the remains or whether any clothing was found in the graves.
Snyder, 32, was also arrested on Friday on charges of endangering child welfare and obstruction in child abuse cases. Like Butler, she is jailed without bail.
Additional charges will likely be filed ahead of their preliminary hearings scheduled for Nov. 17, Gardner said without giving further details. Questions about a possible motive remained unanswered.
“This situation is a travesty of colossal proportions and this investigation will not end until all the evidence is gathered and analyzed, interviews are conducted and justice is served on behalf of the two deceased girls,” said Kriner and Gardner in a statement they issued.
The girls’ father, Joshua Snyder, is not a suspect, the chief said. He told county children and youth services he had not seen his children since 2015 due to custody and abuse protection orders.
Marie Sue Snyder, her son Jesse, 7, and Echo Butler lived with Ronald and Michelle Butler, Echo’s parents, in a trailer near the dead end of Livermore Road in rural Hepburn Twp.
Michelle Butler told investigators she hasn’t seen the girls since Snyder moved in six years ago, according to an arrest affidavit.
She claimed Snyder told her that Jasmine and Nicole were with friends out of state until she had enough money to buy a bigger place, the document says.
Kriner declined to comment when asked if Ronald and Michelle Butler were people of interest.
Children and Youth opened an investigation on September 7 when they received indications that Jesse was being neglected.
The agency said it learned from a caregiver that the boy was not enrolled in school and was not clean, among other issues.
It was during this investigation that questions were raised about Jasmine and Nicole, who are now respectively 8 and 11 years old.
When Snyder was questioned on September 15 about her daughters, she claimed they lived with a friend and were home schooled, an arrest affidavit says. This document also specifies:
Although asked repeatedly, neither she nor Echo Butler provided the friend’s name or where this person could be located. Snyder said she didn’t want children and young people involved.
Ronald Butler told a children’s and youth representative on September 26 that his daughter, Snyder and son had moved out.
The help desk confirmed on October 20 that Snyder was receiving benefits; the records she updated in February showed the address of Livermore Road.
During an Oct. 22 investigation in the Livermore Road area, township police said they learned that Echo Butler was seen changing vehicles at the residence that day.
When questioned after her arrest, police said Butler admitted to obstructing the child and teen’s attempt to locate the three children.
The charges against Snyder and Butler focus on alleged violations of a duty of care owed to children and obstructing the investigation of children and youth.
They are not charged in the deaths of the two girls.
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