The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

November 16, 2013

Case continues to build in man’s death

By Jessica Farrish
Register-Herald Reporter

— Evidence in a case against a father and son suspected of killing a co-worker in April 2011 has been sent to the state crime lab in Charleston.

West Virginia State Police Sgt. R.A. Maddy of the Jesse detachment said police were still following leads Friday and did not rule out the possibility that more suspects may be arrested.

Oscar Combs Jr., 21, of Herndon, was charged Tuesday evening with first-degree murder in the death of James “Bo” Butler, of HillTop, who disappeared on April 5, 2011, while on his way to work. Butler, 55, was reported missing after he failed to report for work.

Searchers in Mercer County checked the Lashmeet area, part of the route Butler usually took to work, for clues. Butler’s body was found three weeks later in a remote part of Wyoming County.

Combs’ father, Oscar “Ross” Combs Sr. of Bud Mountain, was arrested Monday on first-degree murder charges.

Maddy said Friday that the Combses knew Butler’s schedule because the three men worked together, but they had met with Butler prior to the work day on April 5 in order to rob him.

“The motive for the killing was robbery,” said Maddy. “The motive appears to be robbery, period.”

Maddy said that early reports that Butler was shot during the commission of the robbery are not accurate.

He added that the suspects wanted to steal Butler’s money, and that they believed he had a significant amount at the time of the murder.

The murder occurred in Mercer County, where the younger Combs appeared at a preliminary hearing Friday, said Maddy.

Suspects took Butler’s body several miles into Wyoming County to dispose of it, police speculated.

When Butler didn’t come to work, his employer, Dan Farley, called his family.

“He was a very reliable employee,” said Maddy. “His boss said he was just super reliable and never missed work, and that’s one of the first indicators that he was missing.”

Butler’s children and female partner reported to State Police in Summers County that he was missing.

Maddy said other leads are being followed and that evidence is being examined.

Maddy said the Wyoming County Sheriff’s Office has helped him and the lead investigator, Cpl. A.S. Reed, with the investigation and arrests of the Combses.

He declined to say how investigators were able to piece together the evidence to make an arrest after two years.

“We actually had new information come in, and it’s brand new, completely fresh,” he said. “We were able to follow up on several different leads, and it just literally kept progressing with each lead we would run down, which eventually ended up giving us enough for arrest warrants for both of the individuals.”

Some evidence was uncovered on the Combs property during a warranted search, Maddy said.