Prosecutors ultimately decided to try January as an adult for the shocking crime -- and now a jury has found him guilty on all counts. Details, additional photos and more below.
...and some very poignant memories, like this one:
My dearest Whitney Butler -- I struggle to find the words. I feel bad I hadn't seen or talked to you recently, but I was so happy to talk to you when I found out you were going to be married. I wish in retrospect I had found the time and money to come to your wedding, or to visit you more often. VA Beach is only a mere 4 hours away, but life always got in the way. You were one of my closest friends at Hollins and I always think of you when I remember our days there. I know if you were still alive today that we'd pick up right where we left off and laugh like we always did. Regardless of anything, I hope you know how much I loved you and valued our friendship. I miss you friend.
A fundraising campaign in David's memory, with proceeds going to the American Belgian Malinois Club Charitable Trust -- he loved this breed of dog -- notes that the couple married on September 22, 2012, meaning they were relative newlyweds when their lives were abruptly taken. What happened? On the morning of January 14, 2013, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette, Dunlap and Butler were informed by their security company about a burglar alarm that had been triggered at their home. They headed there separately -- and both were killed as they walked in the door.
Evidence presented at a subsequent hearing about whether January should be tried as an adult suggests that Dunlap was gunned down first, from behind. Butler arrived shortly thereafter. She appears to have been kneeling over Dunlap's body when she was shot in the head.
Regarding that alarm: A previous Gazette piece points out that the Colorado Springs Police Department was alerted to it 45 minutes before a neighbor heard gunfire at the home, but officers didn't respond. Why not? The answer suggested at a February hearing is that the department receives approximately 5,000 such reports about alarms per annum, with a hefty percentage of them turning out to be false alarms.
Which this one most certainly was not.
January was arrested for the crime in short order -- and it wasn't his first time in cuffs. A reported victim of abuse and neglect during his formative years, he's been in and out of trouble since at least the age of fourteen, and he's suspected of having been behind perhaps as many as twenty burglaries prior to the slaying of Butler and Dunlap. Moreover, at least a couple of the break-ins were marked by violence, with a 71-year-old woman having been robbed and beaten twice over the span of a few short months. A fifteen-year-old girl home sick from school was also roughed up in a separate incident.
Oh yeah: In a Department of Youth Corrections questionnaire filled out by January and cited at this week's hearing, he allegedly wrote that he wouldn't have a problem committing murder if he "could get away with it."
Continue for more about the guilty verdict in the Whitney Butler-David Dunlap case, including more photos and a video. In September 2013, prosecutors decided to try January as an adult even though he was seventeen at the time of the crime -- and this move doesn't appear to have speeded up the process. On September 8 of this year, Whitney's mom posted the following note of the "Celebrating" Facebook page:
Dear Facebook Friends, I try to spread smiles and laughter, but today I must ask for your prayers and support. As many of you know, over 1½ years ago we lost our daughter Whitney Butler, son-in-law David Dunlap, and the daughter they were expecting when they were killed by a burglar who was still in their house when they left work to reset their alarm system. Your compassion has gotten us through to this point. Next weekend, Kevin Butler and I fly out to Colorado Springs for the trial of their alleged killer. This time we are walking into hell with our eyes open. For the next month, our family and David's is going to need all the good vibrations you can send our way. I thank you for all you've given and all that you will continue to give to carry us on.
At trial, KRDO-TV reports that January denied having committed the murder. Instead, his defense team maintained that he had been walking nearby when he saw Butler's car in the middle of the street and then entered the couple's home out of curiosity, leaving evidence of his presence behind; prosecutors said his DNA was found on the murder weapon.
January's attorneys added that after finding the bodies of Dunlap and Butler, "he ran out the back door because he didn't want people to think he was guilty," the station reports.
The process was grueling for Butler's mom. In a September 24 post, she wrote:
And the trial goes on. Yesterday would have been Whitney and David's second wedding anniversary. Instead of celebrating, we were watching a surveillance video showing Whitney's car turning up her street and a person of interest running away a few minutes later. We know what happened in those minutes. There are reports of their little dogs hiding under a utility truck in snowy, 15 degree weather after they escaped the house. There are pictures of Whitney's high heeled shoes in the stolen items.??? Really??? I know we can't look for logic. We can still prayer for justice. At least 3 more days of testimony to go.
The jury's deliberation process was considerably shorter. After four hours, they returned with guilty verdicts on all ten counts against January -- among them first-degree murder and theft.
Sentencing is scheduled for October 22: January could receive up to life in prison, with parole possible after forty years.
Here's a look at January's booking photo, followed by the KRDO report.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.