Kansas Cold Cases: Clarence “Butch” Lavin

Updated: May. 15, 2022 at 9:53 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Clarence “Butch” Lavin met a lot of people in his line of work, but investigators have yet to find the one who took his life in his Shawnee Co. home, and left two boys without a father.

“He was a fun person,” his son Russ remembers. “When he worked he worked, and when we played, we played. We went to a lot of dirt track races and stuff like that.”

Russ Lavin was just 11 years old when his father was murdered on February 9th, 1984.

“It didn’t seem like I really got know him that well,” he said.

Butch and his wife had divorced. Russ and his older brother were at their mom’s house, and she told them the news.

“(She said) something really bad had happened, and that our dad had died, passed away,” Russ said. “(I wondered) how something like this would happen and why the world could be so mean to take somebody.”

Butch Lavin was found dead in his home in the 4200 block of SE 85th St., a rural area just west of Paulen Rd. Authorities at the time told 13 NEWS it was believed Lavin answered the door to his trailer and, when he opened the door, he was shot.

Pat McLaughlin is the Shawnee Co. District Attorney’s cold case investigator.

“He was a gas service employee, and by all accounts was very well liked, had a good sense of humor,” McLaughlin said.

The Sheriff’s Office put the resources of its major case squad on the investigation, but the leads ran cold. It was brought back to the forefront several times over the years, and is now among the largest case files the Sheriff’s Office has.

“He knew a lot of people and, so, consequently, there were a lot of different avenues, of possible motives, or just different people could be involved that the investigators at the time had to go down and follow up and look at,” McLaughlin said. “Often times, you know, we - the police department, the sheriff’s department - has somewhat of an idea of who may be involved. And in this case, there was just a lot of different possibilities.”

McLaughlin and the Lavin family hope raising the possibilities one more time can lead to answers. Butch Lavin is the six of spades in the Kansas Cold Case Deck, playing cards that will be distributed in the state’s prisons and jails trying to generate tips.

“It’s really tough not knowing why or who or the reason. I would just hope somebody would get involved if somebody knew something,” Russ Lavin said.

“Someone needs to be held accountable for this case and for others,” McLaughlin said. “He did not deserve to die and it would be nice to get him justice, and his family justice as well.”

Because, Russ says, the killer took more than just a life.

“He took my father, and a lot of memories, and a lot of time that I didn’t get to spend with him,” he said.

If you know anything about Butch Lavin’s death - or any cold case - call the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, 1-800-KS-CRIME.

Prior KS Cold Case Profiles:

John Waller

Joshua Jernagin

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