When his Dodge pickup was stopped by a Travelers Rest police officer around 2 a.m., Bob McCaffrey was engrossed in conversation on his cellphone.
McCaffrey struggled to convince the caller that an officer was confronting him for going 19 mph over the speed limit. He offered the phone to the officer, who turned it away.
“Dude, there’s blue lights behind me,” the 40-year-old West Ashley man said to the caller.
A video, released this week by the Travelers Rest Police Department, captures McCaffrey’s reason for embarking on the eight-hour round trip from West Ashley on the night his wife disappeared: to visit a prospective mistress. But what’s still unknown is the identity of the person McCaffrey was speaking with on the phone.
Officials with the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office declined to discuss that part of their investigation. Spokesman Jim Brady said he didn’t know whether the caller had been contacted by investigators.
McCaffrey has been named as the suspect in the disappearance of his wife, 36-year-old Gayle, who was last seen March 17. He reported her missing later the next day.
Sheriff’s investigators used records from the couple’s cellphones to determine where they might have been that night. The tracking effort led searchers to wooded areas off S.C. Highway 61, near their Limestone Boulevard house. But no solid clues about what happened to the mother of two have been revealed.
Even though McCaffrey’s comments didn’t stand out, Officer Patrick Lavery did remark on the story after returning to his cruiser, where a civilian was riding along.
“He’s cheating on his wife with some girl that lives up here,” Lavery said. “He’s having a problem with, I think, his wife or somebody, a little (domestic dispute) on the phone.”
During the initial contact with the officer, McCaffrey pulled out a handgun to reach his registration and insurance papers. Lavery, who unholstered but did not point his own sidearm, asked whether McCaffrey had a concealed-weapons license, which isn’t required to store a weapon in a vehicle console.
McCaffrey did not, and he said the gun was “buried” amid the paperwork he was asked to turn over.
The police department’s chief, Lance Crowe, said the traffic stop was interesting only in retrospect and that the officer “analyzed” the situation correctly. Crowe said his patrolmen, including Officer Donald Widmer, encounter a variety excuses from speeding motorists.
“I’ve certainly experienced stories that are much stranger,” said Widmer, who watched the recording. “Having a dispute with a relative falls right in line. It’s very common.”
McCaffrey made the quick trip to the Upstate to see a love interest, but the woman blew him off, he told the officer. He was rushing home, where his two children were sleeping alone.
“I drove up from Charleston,” McCaffrey said. “Me and my wife have been having a lot of problems. I’ve been seeing a girl ... that lives up here. I came up to see her tonight.”
McCaffrey apologized for speeding, again blaming it on his lovesick state.
“That’s just life,” Lavery said. “I understand failures of the heart. But don’t let it get you too down. And watch your driving. I don’t want you to end up hurting yourself for someone else.”
Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.