By Janene Scully, Noozhawk North County Editor

The remains of a missing man last seen in Carpinteria three weeks ago were discovered in a canyon creekbed off Highway 101 near the Highway 1 exit north of Gaviota, authorities said Saturday.

A resident who lives in the area found the body of Eric “Sunny” Buttler, 57, in a creek in Las Canovas Canyon just before 2 p.m. Friday, Santa Barbara County sheriff’s Sgt. John Maxwell said Saturday. The canyon is off Las Canovas Circle Drive, just east of the northbound Highway 1 exit to Lompoc.

The Coroner’s Office identified the remains as Buttler, whose family has been notified.

Maxwell said detectives with the sheriff’s Criminal Investigations Bureau are handling the case, investigating Buttler’s disappearance and the cause and circumstances of his death.

“No further details are available at this time,” he said.

Buttler, the former owner of Outback Steakhouse in Goleta, was last seen in Carpinteria on June 24. His family reported him missing on June 28.

In a Facebook post, Buttler’s family said he left Ojai for Lompoc around 5 p.m. June 24 but, for unknown reasons, he stopped in Carpinteria to spend the night. Later that evening, he spoke to a close friend on the phone — the last contact any family or friends had with him.

Buttler’s cell phone was found at a Chevron gas station in Carpinteria a few days later.

On July 4, his vehicle was discovered, reportedly stripped, in an agricultural field near Santa Maria.

Buttler’s brother, Leon, who had spread word of his plight, posted an update on Facebook on Saturday morning.

“To all of you who knew my brother and the thousands of you who took the time to help in the search for him, I say thank you,” wrote Leon Buttler, who lives in Tucson. “It is with deep sorrow that I must report to you that his body was found this morning not alive.

“I know he’s in a good place as God and our Mom have him now.”

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the Sheriff’s Department at 805.683.2724. Anonymous tips can be made at 805.681.4171, or click here to report an anonymous tip online.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at