Suspected Murder-Suicide Shocks Community Members

It's a story that's hard to believe. A Tempe family of five disappeared -- the next day, their car was found 50-miles away, torched in the desert with 5 bodies inside.

Suspected murder-suicide shocks community members

TEMPE, Ariz. -It's a story that's hard to believe. A Tempe family of five disappeared -- the next day, their car was found 50-miles away, torched in the desert with 5 bodies inside.

Now, people who knew the Butwins are trying to understand how James Butwin could possibly kill his family and himself, as police believe.

The family was very active at Temple Emanuel in Tempe. James Butwin, the father, was a board member there.

The temple's been bombarded with phone calls from a shocked congregation. No one saw this coming.

This is likely the last picture taken of the Butwin family, celebrating James' birthday. The photo was posted on Facebook Friday.

The next day, the family's car was found torched in the Vekol Valley with 5 bodies inside.

Police are investigating it as a murder suicide.

"I think that we have suffered a tragic loss and we are grieving as a community," said family friend Susan Gordon.

The family was living in a home on Kenneth Place in south Tempe, even though James' wife Yafit filed for divorce in September. She said the marriage is "irretrievably broken and there is no prospect of reconciliation."

"It was stressful but not overly litigious," said Bill Bishop of the divorce.

According to court documents, Yafit is originally from Israel. Yafit came to the U.S. as a nanny in 1993.

The Butwins were married almost 18 years. They met on a blind date and married 18 days after signing the pre-nup. Yafit claimed she was coerced into signing a pre-nup at a time when she didn't speak enough English -- a source of contention in the divorce proceedings.

Yafit was a stay-at-home mother. She had an interior design degree but no job. According to divorce documents she wanted more money from James, the house and the car.

James' attorney said he had a recurring brain tumor, business lawsuits had been filed against him and he was in financial trouble.

"He got into some real estate investments that were upside down in value," said Bishop.

James' attorney said he's appalled if he did in fact kill his family, set the car on fire and kill himself.

"I think this is a horrendous and very selfish thing for James to do."

The Temple Emanuel of Tempe held a service of grief Wednesday night.

"Tonight is a time to come together to be with each other in our shock, horror and fear. This is a time to grieve to acknowledge our disbelief and our pain," said Rabbi Dean Shapiro at the service.

"This is too big for any one of us, this is too painful for us, twisted and awful."

Outside the service, friends of the family spoke to FOX 10. Leslie Cortez used to babysit the Butwin kids.

"It was very hard because I developed a special bond with Matthew, he was a little kid when I would watch him, we used to do a lot of activities, I would go home with him watch cartoons."

She says it's hard to believe the innocent children were caught up in all this. Whatever problems James and Yatif were having had nothing to do with them.

"I just think if that was the case he could've just left the kids and Yafit, no one had to be responsible for what was happening."

"I'm still in shock I just can't believe this happened my hurt hurts I just really wish he wasn't gone," said Austin Powers, a friend of Daniel Butwin's. He's known him since the second grade.

"I never thought I would never see him again. I saw him the last day of school, I thought I would see him all summer."