KETR Local
10:02 am
Mon March 3, 2008

Triple murder in Emory

Emory – Teenage daughter among four charged in family triple-killing

Angry that her parents demanded she break up with her boyfriend, a teenage girl helped kill her mother and two brothers during a grisly weekend ambush at the family's rural wooded home, Rains County authorities alleged Sunday evening.

The 16-year-old girl, who is being held in the Hunt County Juvenile Detention Center in Greenville, joined her boyfriend and two others in shooting and stabbing members of the Caffey family in their bedrooms before setting the house, located on County Road 2370, on fire, authorities said, confirming what most in this small farming town had suspected since the pre-dawn attack Saturday.

The lone survivor was Terry Caffey, the father. He was shot five times including twice in the back before he was able to drag his bloodied body through the woods in search of help. Caffey was in surgery in Tyler on Sunday morning to remove a bullet from his head, he was taken out of ICU on Sunday afternoon but, according to a family friend, awaits further surgeries to remove remaining bullets from his shoulders and back. Killed were Penny Caffey, 37, and sons Tyler, 8, and Mathew, 13.

We feel confident that the motive was the fact that the juvenile daughter and one of the individuals in custody were dating and that the parents were attempting to break the relationship up, Traylor said, which led to the crime that was committed.

The girl, who was not identified because of her age, was arraigned Sunday on three counts of capital murder and being held on $1.5 million bond. Charlie James Wilkinson, the girl's 19-year-old boyfriend, and two others were arraigned on the same charges.

The killings gripped everything in Emory, from the Sunday morning church services to lunch conversations at the small cafes along the two-lane road running through this town of just 1,500.

Pastor Todd McGahee of Miracle Faith Baptist Church, where the Caffeys worshiped and were the house musicians, wept and struggled to stay composed during his Sunday sermon as he remembered Penny getting after it on the church piano and her sons playing guitar with her.

McGahee implored worshippers to pray for the Caffey's daughter and not blame the parents of the suspects, at least one of whom also attended the small church.

There's been a change in this church and a change in this community, McGahee told the 80 worshippers. And we can't just wish it away. ... It will be the same loss, the same hurt tomorrow. There's been that change in our lives.

Charles Allen Waid, 20, and Bobbi Gale Johnson, 18, were the others charged with three counts each of capital murder. They were being held in Rains County jail each on a $500,000 bond.

The scene of the attack was on about 20 acres of pine-canopied, remote woodland in Alba on a narrow gravel road with just two other homes. The area is so secluded that even the closest neighbors only reported faintly hearing what sound liked thunder early Saturday, and few saw the blaze.

Authorities said that Terry Caffey crawled 300 yards to his closest neighbor to get help, leaving a bloody trail behind. He was shot in the head, twice in the back and twice near his shoulder, Traylor said.

When I first heard, I was like, I don't even think I would have crawled out of the house, McGahee said. But God has a purpose for Terry's life. God has a reason. God gave him the strength to get out.

Traylor said one small caliber gun and one knife were used in the attack. He would not say who allegedly did what at the house, only that all four were there at the time.

Police found the daughter hiding in the mobile home of one of the suspects, Traylor said.

The family was asleep in their bedrooms when the ambush began, Traylor said. He said Penny Caffey and Matthew suffered gunshots and stab wounds; the youngest, Tyler, had only stab wounds.

Classmates of the Caffeys' daughter and Wilkinson described the couple as inseparable and with few other friends on campus. Stunning most here was the arrest of Johnson, who was widely described as a good student active in theater at Rains High School.

Jennifer McClanahan, a senior at Rains, said that Wilkinson was scolded during her English class last week for being on the computer. Wilkinson, she said, in turn told the teacher that her girlfriend's father had hacked into his MySpace page.

McClanahan and others described Wilkinson as not really a troublemaker, other than constantly being told to remove the cowboy hat he always wore to school.

That's Charlie, said McClanahan, 17. He would start an argument over something like a hat.

Carl Johnson, a friend of the family, said the Caffeys moved about two years ago to just outside Emory. He called the family good Christians and said he often told the daughter he wanted her soft singing voice to perform at his funeral.

(The parents) didn't like the boy and were trying to break them up, Johnson said. They told me at church they didn't have any use for him.

The family's home sat about three miles off the Highway 69 near Emory. Hay bales, horses and cattle dot the landscape down the county road leading to their secluded house, where a picnic table sits near the pile of black ash that is all that remains of the home.

A wood sign tacked to a tree in the family's dirt driveway reads Joshua 24:15, a verse from the Old Testament that reads, in part, But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.

Cassie Schuder, a waitress in Emory, stayed behind the yellow police tape as she tried coaxing the Caffey's Labrador to dog food and water.

The dog perked its ears briefly, then rolled over to sniff the ashes and singed aluminum scattered throughout the property.

It's kind of like one big family, Schuder, 24, said describing life in Emory. There's outcasts and people that don't want part of family ... I mean, we don't ever lock our cars when we go to work.


The Associated Press writer Paul J. Weber and the Herald-Banner's Daniel Walker contributed to this report.