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Bob McCaffrey sits during his trial for obstruction of justice on March 4, 2019. He was convicted of lying to Charleston County sheriff’s deputies during the investigation into the disappearance of his wife, Gayle, from their West Ashley home in March 2012. She is presumed dead. Wade Spees/Staff

Ten days before she disappeared, Gayle McCaffrey typed a list for her husband titled "pros and cons of your life." Chief among the positives she wrote "wife that loves you."

It was March 2012 and the West Ashley couple had hit a rough patch in their 14-year marriage. She had recently stumbled upon text messages revealing that her husband, Bob McCaffrey, was having an affair with a woman he met in North Carolina.

Shortly before 36-year-old Gayle vanished and would ultimately be presumed dead, she said in a text to her husband, "Next to losing you, everything else is unimportant."

McCaffrey charged with obstruction Sheriff's deputies seek help with missing woman caseInvestigators have "person of interest" in case of missing West Ashley womanMcCaffrey search combs West Ashley (copy)

Gayle McCaffrey. Provided

But when Bob called law enforcement to report her missing the day after St. Patrick’s Day in 2012, he claimed it was his wife who had abandoned him and their two children.

He said she fled their home while he was in the Upstate visiting his mistress. A farewell note, supposedly from Gayle, took an angry tone in detailing why she'd chosen to leave him for another man. 

Nearly seven years later, that letter would help seal 47-year-old Bob McCaffrey's fate. Prosecutors presented it as a key piece of evidence as he stood trial for misleading investigators. He was convicted of obstruction of justice and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Jurors over the course of four days last week heard from people closest to Gayle McCaffrey who testified about the ways she threw herself into repairing her marriage just before she vanished: a planned romantic getaway in the mountains, an inquiry about couples counseling, a home-cooked meal on St. Patrick's Day.

Gayle McCaffrey was fighting to stay, they said, not planning to leave.

Marital problems

Gayle McCaffrey's family and friends knew her as gentle, timid and reserved. When she had to confront others, she would preface concerns with apologies.

The craziest thing she'd ever done? Bring home rescued animals to an apartment that didn't allow pets, one of her sisters said. 

Gayle was a fixture at First Baptist Church in downtown Charleston. She spent Wednesday evenings at choir practice. On Thursdays, she played the handbells. She helped lead a Sunday school program. 

She climbed the ranks in her career at The Citadel, earning her master's degree and landing promotions at the military college that elevated her from a temp worker to the role of director of finance for its facilities.

Above all, loved ones said, Gayle devoted her energy to her family.

Bob McCaffrey had worked as a government contractor, but his employment seesawed. The skilled carpenter picked up odd jobs and home remodeling projects. 

His work took him to Brevard, N.C., where he met a Travelers Rest woman in a pub on Valentine's Day 2012. She was going through a divorce. He said he and his wife were separated, the woman, Brandy Lee, testified in court last week.

Lee saved his number in her phone as "Mr. Valentine."

A passionate affair took off quickly. They saw each other often when Bob traveled to the Upstate. He treated Lee to dinners and once gifted her a pearl necklace and earrings on Folly Beach.

"I was swept off my feet," Lee, 37, testified.

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Brandy Lee, a woman Bob McCaffrey was having an affair with in the Upstate before his wife’s disappearance, testified in McCaffrey's trial for obstruction of justice, last week. He was convicted of lying to Charleston County sheriff’s deputies during the investigation into the disappearance of his wife, Gayle, from their West Ashley home in March 2012. Wade Spees/Staff

Then Gayle discovered the affair. She texted Lee to leave her husband alone. 

That warning was enough to prompt Lee to call it quits with Bob in early March of that same year. She recalled him tearfully asking her to give him some time. 

Gayle McCaffrey found the thought of losing her husband devastating. 

She confided in friends and one of her sisters, asking a few of them about divorce procedures. But she resolved to keep her family intact, especially for the sake of her daughter and son, then ages 10 and 4. 

Around that time, she wrestled with guilt about her "school girl-type crush" on the choir director at her church, co-worker Mary Game testified. Yet she was so shy that the man she admired would later recall that she'd hardly ever spoken to him. 

The last day Gayle's co-workers saw her, she showed them the online listing for a cabin she reserved for her and Bob for the upcoming week in Hendersonville, N.C. A wine and cheese basket would be waiting.

She seemed happy that day, March 16, because Bob had returned home early from out of town. 

She asked her colleagues for their best recipes so she could prepare a traditional Irish meal for her husband on St. Patrick's Day, an evening that would include their children and her aunt and uncle. 

"She was excited," Game said in court. "She stood there and looked right at me and said, 'I want to make this work.'"

Obstruction case moving forward against husband of Gayle McCaffrey (copy) (copy) (copy)

Gayle McCaffrey. File/Provided

A goodbye 

While Gayle McCaffrey planned to mend her marriage, her husband chased after his mistress. 

"I want nothing more than 2 b in your arms. Being away really hurts," Bob McCaffrey texted Lee the night of March 16. 

"U r married. Its (expletive) complicated," Lee replied. 

On March 17, after dinner with his family, he left his family's home on Limestone Boulevard in West Ashley and drove to see Lee at a VFW in Travelers Rest, a city in Greenville County. 

Lee played pool and sang karaoke, not paying Bob much attention when he arrived around 1 a.m. Her friend Denise Richardson watched as he stood stiff against a wall, his arms crossed. 

"He kept watching Brandy the whole time," Richardson testified. 

On Bob's drive home, an officer pulled over his pickup truck for speeding in Travelers Rest. He told the officer he was having problems with his marriage, drove four hours to see his girlfriend and "got blown off."

Bob would later tell investigators he found his children asleep and alone when he returned to West Ashley at 6:30 a.m. March 18. Gayle's keys, wedding ring and checkbook sat on the counter. 

He found the goodbye letter on the printer, he said.

The note said she was running away with a man named Nicky. Their children loved Bob more than her, the note said, suggesting why she was leaving them behind. She'd taken $110,000 she found squirreled away in a safe.

Bob said he laid on the couch and cried. Then he called his father, a retired police detective, who advised him to get an attorney. 

He texted Lee that afternoon saying his wife was gone and that he could "use a friend now." 

Bob McCaffrey called authorities 11 hours after he arrived home — a time lapse the lead detective would later say he'd never encountered in a missing person case.

The first Charleston County sheriff's deputy at the home thought Bob's behavior — the way he cried hysterically, paced back and forth, and looked away as the deputy asked questions for a missing person's report — seemed off. 

Investigators who searched the home saw no signs of a struggle and turned up no clues about Gayle McCaffrey's whereabouts. 

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Bob McCaffrey is shown in a video interview with a Charleston County sheriff's investigator during his trial for obstruction of justice last week. He was convicted of lying to deputies during the investigation into the disappearance of his wife, Gayle, from their West Ashley home in March 2012. Wade Spees/Staff

'Hoping she'll come back'

That night, Sheriff's Office investigators quizzed Bob McCaffrey during a voluntary six-hour interview. That was before he hired an attorney, and it would be the only time he spoke with authorities. 

He told detectives his wife's disappearance baffled him.

"I wish I had a freaking clue where to look," he said in the recorded interview. "Hoping she'll freaking come back. Hoping she'll call. ... I've never given up hope on anything before, and I can't on this."

He told detectives about his relationship with Lee.

Investigators tracked down Lee, who gave statements, let them search her phone and agreed to try to get Bob to talk to her. When she tried to set up a meeting that never came to fruition, Lee said he asked if she would be wearing a wire. Lee later testified Bob told her it would be best if she didn't describe their relationship to authorities.

Six weeks into their investigation, Sheriff's Office officials publicly identified Bob as the suspect in what they believed was his wife's homicide, but they didn't have the probable cause to arrest him.

Meanwhile, rescuers and members of the public combed wooded areas near the couple's home in West Ashley for any signs of Gayle's remains. Some searches stretched to the Upstate. Relatives even contacted psychic mediums. Her husband didn't participate in any of the efforts, authorities said.

Gayle's body was never found.

Then authorities charged Bob with obstruction of justice in June 2014, more than two years after his wife went missing. They had consulted a linguist to examine the supposed farewell note and concluded that Bob wrote it and crafted a fictitious story that hindered their investigation. 

"We were pretty much chasing our tail going in opposite directions," said James Perkins, a former Charleston County sheriff's detective who worked the case.

Defense attorney Chris Lizzi would contend that authorities never uncovered any evidence indicating that Bob wrote the letter, saying it could've been authored by a third party. 

With the obstruction charge pending, the case saw its first public development in years last March when authorities charged him with killing his wife after a probate judge declared Gayle dead. 

The murder charge didn't stick. The case was thrown out because a grand jury declined to indict him on the charge based on circumstantial evidence.

Gayle's relatives wondered if they would ever find justice.

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Defense attorney Chris Lizzi gives his opening argument in Bob McCaffrey's trial for obstruction of justice on March 4, 2019. McCaffrey was convicted of lying to Charleston County sheriff’s deputies during the investigation into the disappearance of his wife, Gayle, from their West Ashley home in March 2012. Wade Spees/Staff

Unanswered questions

Jurors on Friday deliberated for just 15 minutes before finding him guilty of obstruction of justice. Bob McCaffrey stood in a gray suit, his hands cuffed behind his back. One of Gayle's McCaffrey's sisters made an emotional statement. Minutes passed in silence. Then Circuit Judge Craig Brown sentenced him to 10 years in prison, the maximum. 

Outside the courthouse, Gayle sisters Debbie Pearson and Helen Banach hugged their supporters in the sunshine. Banach held a picture of a smiling Gayle as Pearson told reporters their lives can now continue to move forward. 

"It means that hopefully we don’t think about it a whole lot anymore," Pearson said.

Still, another emotional hurdle awaited them. The family would need to tell their sister's children, now 17 and 11 and living with Pearson, that their father is in prison. The kids haven't seen Bob in three years, her sisters said.

The conviction afforded Gayle McCaffrey's family some long-awaited justice, but they still don’t have an answer to the question they sought to answer years ago when trudging through dense woods: Where are Gayle's remains?

"We still hope to find an answer to that," Banach said, "but we may never."


Gayle McCaffrey's sisters Helen Banach and Debbie Pearson talk to reporters Friday following Bob McCaffrey's conviction for obstruction of justice. "We’ve waited a very long time for this,” Banach said, “and just to know he’s not on the streets anymore is such a joy.” Angie Jackson/Staff

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Reach Angie Jackson at 843-937-5705. Follow her on Twitter at @angiejackson23

Angie Jackson covers crime and breaking news for The Post and Courier. She previously covered the same beat for the Grand Rapids Press and in Michigan. When she’s not reporting, Angie enjoys teaching yoga and exploring the outdoors.

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