Though he had a pistol and seemed agitated, nothing about Bob McCaffrey “flew up any red flags” during a traffic stop the night the West Ashley man’s wife disappeared, an Upstate police chief said Wednesday.
McCaffrey was ticketed early on March 18 after a patrol officer spotted his Dodge Ram speeding through Travelers Rest. As McCaffrey reached into a center console for his registration and insurance papers, the 41-year-old pulled out the handgun, said the city’s police chief, Lance Crowe.
“It came out when the officer asked for the registration, not in a threatening manner,” Crowe said.
McCaffrey owned the firearm, and the officer determined that no crimes beyond the traffic violation were committed.
“There was nothing noteworthy about that traffic stop,” Crowe said. “It didn’t stand out to us at all. Nothing made the officer want to do any more ... than he did.”
Details about the encounter first were reported this week, but they were nothing new or remarkable to the Charleston County sheriff’s officials, who have named McCaffrey as the suspect in the presumed death of his 36-year-old wife, Gayle.
While no body has been found, authorities are treating the case as a homicide.
The Post and Courier previously reported that McCaffrey was a shooting enthusiast and that investigators removed several firearms during a search of his house. But none of the guns have been linked to any alleged crimes.
On Wednesday, McCaffrey’s attorney reiterated a long-held sentiment that the media and the authorities continue to negatively portray his client “when they have no real evidence at all.”
“That could have been anybody at all during a traffic stop,” attorney Chris Lizzi said. “This information has been in the hands of law enforcement since Day 1, and it was part of his initial statements.
“Nothing has changed.” Despite repeated requests, Crowe has declined to release video of the stop from the officer’s dashboard camera, instead deferring to Charleston County authorities.
Sheriff’s spokesman Jim Brady said investigators feared that the video’s public release would compromise their efforts, but that the agency was ironing out legal implications with solicitors in order to make it available this week.
Gayle McCaffrey, a Citadel employee, was reported missing later on the day of the traffic stop. Since then, investigators have unearthed no solid clues about what happened to her.
What’s known is that the couple had a disagreement during a family meal on St. Patrick’s Day, after which Bob McCaffrey made a trip to the Upstate.
That’s where he met with a woman he had been pursuing as a love interest, according to the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office.
About 2:15 a.m., the Travelers Rest police officer stopped his truck on U.S. Highway 25 for going 64 mph in a 45 mph zone. He was issued a $135 ticket.
Though it’s best to inform an officer during a stop that a firearm is in the vehicle, Crowe said no laws were broken when McCaffrey revealed his pistol. State statutes allow motorists without felony convictions to keep a gun in a closed compartment, and do not prohibit them from exposing a weapon during a traffic stop.
The stop of McCaffrey was one of more than a dozen conducted that evening by the officer, whom the chief called one of the most productive and knowledgeable on his force.
“It was kind of an absent-minded thing” for McCaffrey, Crowe said. “He moved the gun to get to the registration.”
McCaffrey said he returned to his Limestone Boulevard home about four hours after the encounter and found his wife gone. Left behind were their two sleeping children and her wedding band, cellphone and Jeep.
A typed note saying she had left to be with another man was determined to be bogus, sheriff’s investigators have said.
Through his attorney, McCaffrey has maintained his innocence and remains hopeful that his wife will be found alive. He also has offered himself for follow-up interviews with investigators, Lizzi said.
At this point, any case against McCaffrey is purely circumstantial, officials have said. Several searches along S.C. Highway 61 near the couple’s home have uncovered nothing.
Though evidence technicians removed weapons from the home, officials have declined to theorize about how Gayle McCaffrey was killed.
“We removed several weapons from the residence,” Brady said. “But they’re legal. They’re guns that he legally owns.”
Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.