Pastor: Murdered record producer wanted to know how he could serve

DALLAS: One of the last souls Matthew Butler spoke with was his pastor at the First Baptist Church of Dallas.

Robert Jeffress could not have dreamed that hours later he would hear of Butler’s murder, or that days later he’d be preaching the funeral of Butler, 28, and his friend Stephen Swan, 26.

In killings that drew national attention, the bullet-ridden bodies of Butler and Swan were discovered in the early morning hours of June 19 outside Butler’s business, Zion Gate Records in downtown Garland, after robbers netted $2 and Swan’s 1995 Crown Victoria.

In a phone interview July 8, Jeffress said the pastoral care ministry at First Baptist Church in downtown Dallas, where he is pastor and where Butler and his wife, Jamie, were members, is seeking to help the family the best it can with its loss of a husband and father of a 2-year-old son and 1-year-old daughter.

On the afternoon before his death, Butler, drove from suburban Garland to the First Baptist Church in downtown Dallas to meet with Jeffress.

“He had made an appointment to come and see me,” Jeffress said. “He talked about how happy he and his wife were at our church. They had just joined in April, and they wanted to find a place to serve and
to use their spiritual gifts. He was absolutely sold out to Jesus Christ.”

Jeffress said Butler wanted to be able to eventually give all of his money to the church, and the two men talked about the responsibility a father has in providing for his family in addition to tithing and giving. They prayed God would open doors for Butler to bless his family and others, Jeffress said.

“When he went downstairs [after the meeting], he purchased a card in our gift shop and left it with my secretary. The card read, ‘Thanks for taking the time to visit with me today.’ He then went back to work at his recording studio and later that evening his life was taken.”

Jeffress said Butler’s mother told him that her son had called “out of the blue” earlier that day to tell her how much he loved her and his father and appreciated all they had done for him.

Garland police, alerted by a passerby, discovered the bodies of Butler and Swan shortly after midnight on June 19 outside Butler’s recording studio where the two men had worked until late that evening.

The day after the killings, police in Texarkana, Ark., pulled Swan’s stolen sedan over for a traffic violation, leading to the arrest of James Broadnax, 19, of Texarkana, and his cousin, Damarius Cummings, 19, of Dallas.

In an obscenity-laced jailhouse interview with the Dallas Morning News, Broadnax told reporter Jason Trahan, “I murdered both of them. No hesitation or nothing.”

Cummings, asked if he feared the death penalty on capital murder charges, said: “If that’s what it is, justice has to be served. It wasn’t the plan to kill them; it was just to rob them.

“I feel regretful. I feel for the family, or whatever.”

The men said they went to Garland by train from Dallas with the intent to rob someone and were disappointed with only netting $2.

The newspaper said the two men struck up a conversation with Butler and Swan as they were leaving the recording studio. Over half an hour, Butler and Swan told Broadnax and Cummings about their work and that they were Christians before things turned violent.

After Broadnax asked Butler for a cigarette, Broadnax unveiled a pistol and began firing, shooting both men multiple times to “make sure they were dead,” the newspaper reported.

“Do I look like I got remorse?” Broadnax replied when asked if he was sorry.

Cummings’ aunt called police and reported the license plate of the car they were driving after overhearing them talk about the robbery, news reports said.

Meanwhile, the responses from the widowed Jamie Butler were filled with references to her faith and hope that the two robbers would find forgiveness through Jesus Christ.

Butler told Greta Van Susteren of the Fox News Channel: “That’s what my husband would want everyone out there to know, that God loves them.? And so for these men out there that have done this, I would want them to know Christ and to know that no matter what, God died on the cross for them and that he will forgive them. And my husband, I know, is waiting at the gates of Heaven, wanting to meet these men and saying, ‘I forgive you, as well.'”

Louis Moore, a veteran journalist and owner of the publishing company Hannibal Books in Garland, told the TEXAN in an e-mail: “I met Matt about six weeks before he died when he and his wife and two precious children visited a duplex I own and inquired about renting it. They stayed and talked about 30 minutes. Matt wanted to rent the place, but his wife thought (correctly?I agreed) that the second bedroom was too small for two growing children. I really liked them and looked forward to possibly working with them on a project some day.”

Moore wrote on his Internet blog that missionaries abroad are taught the dangers of sharing their faith in what are often unsafe places, but American believers are not accustomed to such threats.

He raised the question on his blog of whether America has gotten so unsafe that Christians should be taught to avoid danger in sharing their faith.

“I pray not,” Moore wrote.

Noting that he had to dig deep into the newspaper story to learn that the two men were witnessing when they were killed, Moore wrote: “The banner headline on this story easily could have been about Christians slain while following Christ’s commands to share their faith with others. I’m sure this buried fact wasn’t lost on many other believers. Now we must decide what Jesus wants us to do in the aftermath.”

A memorial fund has been established for Butler’s family at Wells Fargo Bank and may be contributed to at any location. To mail a check, make it payable to “Matthew Butler Memorial Fund” and send to Wells Fargo Bank, 2628 Long Prairie Road, Suite 110, Flower Mound, TX 75022.

Online Editor
Aaron Earls
Lifeway
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