Our Pledge To You


A tragic turn in volleyball coach Rick Butler’s complicated life

Rick Butler in his early coaching days. | Provided photo

Rick Butler built his volleyball empire in Illinois.

But he never really left Oregon behind.

Butler grew up in a small town in western Oregon, where his parents owned a service station. Today, he owns a large, secluded home on nearly 250 acres of property in Crook County about 200 miles east of his hometown, records show. The property is worth $1.25 million, county officials estimate, and Butler often shares majestic views of the surrounding wilderness on Facebook.

But back in 1995 — in the midst of the sexual abuse scandal that nearly ended his career — something else drew Butler’s attention back to the town of Eugene, Oregon. He went to the town’s police department in May of that year seeking information about the January 1975 death of his 2-year-old son, Christopher Alan Butler, police and court records show.

This is the third part of a Chicago Sun-Times investigation into Butler’s volleyball empire. To read this story and other parts of the series, click here.