Joan Marie Butler

Butler, circa 1989; Richard Grissom in 2007

  • Missing Since 06/18/1989
  • Missing From Overland Park, Kansas
  • Classification Endangered Missing
  • Sex Female
  • Race White
  • Date of Birth 03/28/1965 (59)
  • Age 24 years old
  • Height and Weight 5'6, 110 pounds
  • Clothing/Jewelry Description A 1957 Great Bend High School class ring with a black panther face on her left pinky finger.
  • Associated Vehicle(s) Red or maroon Chevrolet Corsica rental car (accounted for)
  • Distinguishing Characteristics Caucasian female. Brown hair, brown eyes. Butler wears eyeglasses or contact lenses. Her ears are pierced.

Details of Disappearance

Butler was last seen during the early morning hours of June 18, 1989 while she was out with friends in Overland Park, Kansas. She apparently made it home from there, as the clothes she had been wearing that evening were found at her apartment, where she lived alone.

Evidence indicates Butler was surprised at her apartment. A half-eaten slice of toast, a half-smoked cigarette and one contact lens were found at the residence, but Butler was missing and so was her red or maroon Chevrolet Corsica rental car, and approximately $900 from her bank account. Neighbors reported hearing a loud thud in the vicinity at approximately 4:30 a.m. on the day Butler vanished.

Butler's vehicle was found parked at an apartment complex in Lenexa, Kansas on June 25. As authorities were arriving, a man approached the Corsica and opened the trunk. When he realized the police were approaching, he shut the trunk and fled. The last trace of Butler was an ATM security camera picture of her, taken on the night of June 26. She was wearing oversized sunglasses in the picture, but a large bruise could be seen on her forehead. She has never been seen or heard from again.

Richard Grissom Jr.'s fingerprints were inside Butler's car, as was his wallet, checkbook and driver's license. A photo of him is posted with this case summary. A witness later stated she saw Grissom driving a rental vehicle on June 20. An air pistol pellets and CO2 cartridges were found in the glove compartment of the vehicle, and a drop of Butler's blood was in the trunk. There was dust and gravel stuck to the underside of the Corsica, and scratches on the vehicle similar to those caused by branches and brush.

Grissom was arrested in Texas on July 7, 1989. In 1990, he was convicted of murdering Butler and two other women, Theresa Brown and Christine Rusch, roommates who disappeared from Lenexa on June 26. Grissom, who was also convicted of eight charges related to the murders, was sentenced to four life terms in prison; he will not be eligible for parole until 2095. He is also a suspect in at least two other murders, but he has not been charged in those cases. He is a career criminal who committed his first murder at the age of sixteen.

Butler is a graduate of the University of Kansas. She is described as an ambitious young woman. Despite extensive searches, none of the missing women have ever been found. Dan Mitrione wrote about them in a book entitled Suddenly Gone - The Kansas Murders of Serial Killer Richard Grissom.

Investigating Agency

  • Overland Park Police Department 913-327-6881

Updated 5 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated December 12, 2018; date of birth added.