Helen Banach doesn’t want people to forget her sister, Gayle McCaffrey.
Authorities haven’t turned up any clues about what happened to the 36-year-old mother of two who went missing in March.
Her husband, Bob McCaffrey, was named as a suspect in her presumed death, but investigators have developed no evidence to arrest him.
Since his wife disappeared, the 40-year-old has wooed a new girlfriend in Brevard, N.C., where he has been renovating a family member’s house. The woman knows of McCaffrey’s status as a homicide suspect, Banach said.
And for nine weeks this summer, he didn’t travel home for supervised visits with his children.
“He’s not giving any indications that he’s coming back,” Banach, a Summerville resident, said. “He’s starting a whole new life. But I cannot go on with my life without knowing what happened.”
Banach hopes that a collaboration announced Monday between the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office and the CUE Center for Missing Persons will draw new attention to her sister’s disappearance.
The North Carolina-based center, which has helped in 8,700 missing-person cases since 1994, will contribute hundreds of volunteers, as well as dogs, horses, boats, all-terrain vehicles and, if needed, remote-control aircraft. They intend to search new areas and to re-canvass some of the same properties where deputies previously looked for McCaffrey’s body.
The group also arranged for eight electronic billboards countywide to flash a message about the case. Adams Outdoors donated the spots for a nine-day run.
“It’s a tragedy when you read something like this in the news, but we go on with our lives,” said Vicki Porter, CUE’s outreach director for South Carolina. “By having her face out there, it makes her more of a real person to the public, a real person whose family needs answers.”
Little new information has come from a months-long investigation into the West Ashley mother’s disappearance.
Bob McCaffrey told the Sheriff’s Office that he last saw his wife after a St. Patrick’s Day dinner at their Limestone Boulevard home. He said that after a disagreement, he drove to the Upstate town of Travelers Rest to visit a potential lover, who rebuffed him. When he returned the next morning, he told deputies, the couple’s children were sleeping, but his wife was gone.
Investigators said Gayle McCaffrey’s car and some personal belongings were left behind.
Sheriff Al Cannon said investigators continue to work on the case, but they have exhausted efforts in searching areas along S.C. Highway 61 and in other nearby communities.
Detectives met with CUE representatives Monday, but they did not determine whether any new sweeps should be conducted.
The Sheriff’s Office has worked with the center before, most recently on the case of Brittanee Drexel, a 17-year-old New York resident who disappeared during a trip to Myrtle Beach in April 2009. Numerous searches have been conducted from Myrtle Beach to the McClellanville area, but Drexel remains missing.
“We feel like we have done everything in terms of logical locations we needed to search” for McCaffrey, the sheriff said. “But the challenge is that the possibilities where she could be buried is pretty significant.”
But Cannon reiterated that Bob McCaffrey hasn’t offered any help in narrowing the investigation since his initial statements after family members urged him to report his wife missing March 18. Cannon welcomed another interview opportunity.
“We’d love to sit down with him and review what he said at the time,” Cannon said. “We’d like to find out what he thinks in reflecting on that statement.”
McCaffrey’s attorney, Chris Lizzi of North Charleston, could not be reached Monday. Lizzi previously said that he would allow his client to be questioned only if investigators released McCaffrey’s original statement.
Banach, one of two sisters of Gayle McCaffrey’s, said the couple’s children recently returned to school but not to a normal life.
They continue to live with their aunt, Debbie Pearson of Mount Pleasant.
The youngsters saw their father during the past two weekends after more than two months without supervised visits.
“They woke up one morning, and their life was gone,” Banach said of the children. “That’s what makes me angry about this. It has taken away their innocence, and that isn’t fair.”
Glenn Smith contributed to this report. Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.