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Chapter 90 Enforcer
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New York State: Body Found in Van, Day After Accident[1].gif/63646263373463363433343133353730
Daily Star
WALTON - The body of a Walton woman who died in her van as the result of an accident Sunday afternoon was not discovered until Monday morning, Delaware County Undersheriff Douglas Vredenburgh said.

Mary Ellen Martini-Butler, 38, was found under the dashboard on the passenger side of her van more than 18 hours after the accident, deputies said. The van had been towed to Fred's Body Shop in Walton.

On Sunday, authorities, relatives and residents were unsuccessful in a search for Martini-Butler in the vicinity of the crash on state Route 10, and deputies said it was believed she had left the site.

Deputies said her body was discovered after Fred Babcock, owner of the body shop, sent someone to retrieve the registration from the van at about 8:45 a.m. Monday. When the person moved a pile of boxes, he found the body.

Babcock called the Walton police, who called the fire department and the emergency squad.

Dr. Richard Ucci, Delaware County medical examiner, pronounced Martini-Butler dead and had her body sent to Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton for an autopsy, deputies said.

Lt. Don Cantwell said the accident is still under investigation, with technical accident reconstruction assistance from the state police.

A passerby spotted Martini-Butler's van between noon and 12:30 p.m. Sunday. The van had crashed into heavy brush on Route 10, about 1½ miles north of the village of Walton, deputies said.

The person who noticed the van stopped and looked around, did not see anyone and then drove into Walton and contacted the Walton Police Department. A Walton officer called sheriff's department dispatchers to determine whether the accident had been investigated, deputies said.

Deputies said the Walton officer did not go to the accident scene because it was believed that the driver had left the area. The dispatchers contacted a sheriff's department patrol car in the village of Delhi to investigate the accident and also dispatched the Walton fire department and emergency squad to respond.

Vredenburgh said the airbags had inflated and a large number of bags and boxes filled with personal belongings were scattered throughout the van, but otherwise it appeared empty and it seemed that the driver had left the scene.

A search of the nearby area and an abandoned house was conducted by fire personnel, deputies said. When the sheriff's deputy arrived, he also checked the van and then requested that Fred's wrecker service remove the van.

Martini-Butler was a cook at Gramma D's restaurant in Walton, according to Doreen Butler, restaurant owner. Butler and Martini-Butler are not related.

Butler said Martini-Butler had worked at the restaurant for more than a year and was very dependable, so when she didn't show up for work at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Butler began to worry.

Butler said the deputies had contacted the restaurant looking for Martini-Butler after discovering the van. She said Martini-Butler was in the process of moving into a new apartment and had been transporting her belongings throughout the week.

"She always either showed up for work or called," Butler said. "When she didn't arrive, I called her cell phone, which she always had with her, but when she didn't answer I knew something was wrong."

Butler said Martini-Butler has five children ranging in age from 11 to 21. She said her children were also worried and left numerous messages on their mother's cell phone.

Butler said she and Martini-Butler's children repeatedly called the sheriff's department Sunday to ask that they issue a missing-person report and conduct a search. She said Martini-Butler's sons and residents who live in the vicinity of the crash searched fields in the area until 3 a.m.

Butler said the family did not check the van because they didn't know where it was. She said deputies had told them it was taken to a different body shop.

"Mary was a very nice person, but she was a little shy," Butler said. "She would do anything for anybody and she loved animals."

Glenn Morrison, Delaware County deputy emergency services director, said 10 to 15 members of the Walton fire department and EMS went to the crash site. He said it appeared that someone had left the vehicle through an open window, so they were attempting to locate the driver through contacts in the area.

"A large number of dedicated and experienced people were at the accident scene," Morrison said. "These folks are devastated. They have really taken this to heart."
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