Attorney: McCaffrey follow-up questioning would come with hitch
The day after Bob McCaffrey called 911 to report his wife missing, he sat down with investigators and told his side of the story for five hours.
Since that debriefing more than two months ago, he hasn’t uttered a word to the authorities trying to find the West Ashley mother. Family members say the man who’s considered the suspect in Gayle McCaffrey’s presumed death won’t answer their questions either.
Though McCaffrey has professed a desire to find his wife alive, his stubbornness has dogged both the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office and loved ones, who want a proper burial for the 36-year-old Citadel employee and Baptist church member.
But his stance has remained firm: He won’t talk unless he’s provided with a recording or transcript of that initial interview.
Attorney Chris Lizzi said the Sheriff’s Office is trying to develop evidence against McCaffrey by “misusing and misinterpreting” any inconsistencies in his story that could result from a follow-up interview. He wants an account of that interview as protection against them doing that, he said.
“If they have any additional questions, we can provide them with any additional answers,” Lizzi said, adding that McCaffrey has been heeding his counsel in not speaking out. “If there’s anything we left out that day, we can provide it.
“But I don’t think another (unconditional) interview would assist them at all in finding his wife.”
Family members think this legal bargaining has interfered with the ultimate goal of all parties involved: to find the woman, dead or alive.
Helen Banach of Summerville, a sister of Gayle McCaffrey, said her family was “most assuredly” frustrated by what they dubbed a game of legal dodge ball. Banach spoke about that frustration for the first time last week in hopes that McCaffrey would willingly come forward.
“If the police need to question you, you should have to do it, even if you don’t get what you want,” Banach said Friday. “We’ve done everything we possibly can to find her. We’re just asking him to do that as well.”
Investigators have turned over the one-page written statement McCaffrey drafted after the mid-March disappearance, but Lizzi should not be privy to the recorded oral interview, officials said. Withholding such information is common procedure for homicide cases.
“(The attorney) is holding him out” by demanding the transcript, said Maj. Jim Brady, a sheriff’s spokesman. “Asking for that is just an excuse.”
The couple, who wed more than 14 years ago, had been experiencing marital problems when McCaffrey started wooing a love interest from Greenville, officials and relatives have said.
That relationship, which consisted of electronic and telephone communication, prompted a disagreement on St. Patrick’s Day as they dined on cabbage rolls, according to relatives. After last seeing his wife lying on a bed that night, McCaffrey told deputies, he drove to the Upstate for a meeting with the woman, who rebuffed him.
He said he returned the next morning and found his two children sleeping alone and his wife gone. Her Jeep and wedding band were abandoned. A typed note, now thought to be bogus, claimed she had left to be with another man.
Investigators have used activity on the couple’s cellphones to whittle down the areas where they might have been when she disappeared. That information prompted several searches near their Limestone Boulevard house, none of which produced any clues.
McCaffrey now travels between the Lowcountry and the mountainous Brevard, N.C., where he earns money by remodeling a family member’s house.
It was there on Thursday where a crew from a local news station confronted him. Hesitant to speak, he reiterated his attorney’s statement that he longs for his wife’s safe return.
He added that his “kids were stolen from me,” according to a video on WCBD-TV’s website.
Lizzi wouldn’t say whether his client has immediate plans to seek custody of the children. McCaffrey had agreed in March to temporarily send them to live with his wife’s sister in Mount Pleasant.
Lizzi said the news media have maligned his client despite the Sheriff’s Office having tenuous evidence against the 40-year-old.
Asked whether he agrees with his client’s faith that his wife could still return, Lizzi said he personally could not opine.
“It would be speculation to say she’s alive or dead,” he said. “I just think it was improper for the sheriff to declare her dead without any real evidence of foul play.”
Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.