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Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Murder?--undoubtably. Suicide?--highly unlikely. Investigation?--deliberately bungled.

The mortal remains of Bruce and Nancy Shaefer are being laid to rest today, but what haven't been laid to rest are doubts about the manner in which they died, less than a week ago. I'm copying the statements that have been released now, before they evaporate into cyberspace:

Habersham County Sheriff Joey Terrell said the Georgia Bureau of Investigation was still working on the final report on the deaths. Terrell said the Schaefer’s[sic] exact time of death was still uncertain. One[sic] of Schaefer’s daughters found the bodies late Friday afternoon and called 911. Terrell said authorities are sure it was a murder-suicide. He said Bruce Schaefer left a four-page suicide note as well as other letters addressed to family members. --Charlie Bauder, WLHR

"Daughter of the victims found them in the house. She hasn't heard from them all day. Evidently, she went to the house and discovered the bodies," Sheriff Joey Terrell said. The Habersham County Sheriff says the deaths of the former State Senator and her husband are hitting everyone hard. "It's very shocking not only to myself but to everyone in the community," he said. --Elizabeth Owens and Jaime Reda, News Channel Seven

Six GBI agents were at the home investigating at the request of the Habersham County Sheriff's department, GBI spokesman John Bankhead said. The preliminary investigation is looking at the case as a murder-suicide, but he did not have further details. State Sen. Don Thomas told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he knew the couple well and that he believed Bruce Schaefer was suffering from cancer. "In those moments, you are not at your complete sanity," said Thomas, a physician and Republican from Dalton. "Some people figure the best way is to end it for both of you. They were married for so long. Loved each other so much. When you see somebody that you love so much, every now and then, you think the best way out of it is to go and be with the Lord." --AP, March 26 [note: if Dr. Thomas is ever accused of killing someone old or ill, especially someone married a long time, I'll be inclined to believe it.]

"There will be a thorough investigation to determine what happened," GBI spokesman John Bankhead told the AJC. He could not say who might have been the shooter. Six GBI agents and two crime scene technicians are at the scene of the Schaefer home in Haberham County. An announcement was made around 7:30 p.m. Friday on the floor of the Georgia General Assembly. Mashaun D. Simon and Aaron Gould Sheinin for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, March 26

Autopsies are being performed today on the bodies of former state Sen. Nancy Schaefer and her husband, who were found shot to death Friday afternoon in an apparent murder- suicide at their Habersham County home.
Sheriff Joey Terrell said this morning that authorities believe they know who the shooter was, but wanted to wait until the autopsies are completed before releasing that information.
Terrell said the couple’s daughter, who lives in the same gated community as the Schaefers, discovered their bodies in a bedroom about 5:30 p.m. Friday. He said a handgun was used in the shootings and was found near the bodies.
Several notes were left behind, but Terrell declined to say who wrote them.
While State Sen. Don Thomas of Dalton said this morning he believed that Bruce Schafer had been ill, the sheriff said the couple’s daughter had no knowledge of any serious illness affecting him.
A prominent conservative Republican, Schaefer, 75, was known as a vocal opponent of abortion and same-sex marriage. She was elected to the state Senate in 2004 and served two terms, but she made several unsuccessful bids for public office prior to that.
State Rep. Rick Austin, whose district includes Habersham County, announced Schaefer’s death to a packed House chamber around 7:30 p.m. Friday and led lawmakers in a moment of silence.
Hall County legislators who had worked with Schaefer said they were saddened by the news.
“I had the privilege of serving with Nancy for several years in the State Senate and appreciated her kind heart and desire to serve the people of Georgia well,” said Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle. “Nita and I will be praying for the entire Shaefer family and ask that the Lord will provide them with peace that passes all understanding during this difficult time.”
“The state of Georgia has lost two fine God-fearing people,” said state Rep. James Mills, R-Chestnut Mountain. “We should all pray for the family.”
Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, said he served with Schaefer in his first term in the House. Because they served in adjoining districts, they often attended meetings together on White County issues, he said.
Collins said Schaefer served her district honorably.
“I always thought her to be an honest person who did what she thought was right,” Collins said. “It’s just a real sad event.”
Schaefer, who has been active in conservative Christian causes for many years, was president of Family Concerns, a Christian organization.
She was elected in 2004 after federally redrawn legislative districts created an open seat in the 50th District. She defeated two Republican challengers and a Democrat to win the seat.
Prior to that, Schaefer ran for mayor of Atlanta in 1993, was the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor in 1994 and finished third in the GOP race for governor in 1998.
Before seeking re-election in 2008, she considered a challenge to Brown for the congressional seat. She later chose to run for re-election, but lost in the Republican primary to eventual winner Jim Butterworth.
She once hosted a daily commentary show on WNIV-AM, an Atlanta Christian radio station, according to her state Senate biography.
She was a former first vice president of the Georgia Baptist Convention, a frequent speaker to churches of all denominations, a speaker to civic and political organizations and a frequent guest on radio and local and national television programs.
In 2001, she became the first female trustee of Toccoa Falls College.
She and her husband lived in Atlanta for 35 years before relocating to Habersham County.
The 50th District, which she served, includes Habersham, Rabun, Towns, Stephens, Banks, Franklin, Hart and a portion of White counties.
Shaefer and her husband had five children and 13 grandchildren.

--Mitch Clarke and Stephen Gurr, Gainesville Times UPDATED March 27, 2010 11:42 a.m.
Staff writer Ashley Fielding and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

According to GBI (Georgia Bureau of Investigation) official, both of them were shot to death when they were at their home. The investigation official also said that they are inspecting every aspect of murder-suicide episode but not sure. Everything will be clear once the postmortem report is done. Postmortem is expected to be carried out this weekend. Bankhead, who is also the spokesperson of GBI, explained that there are three crime scene technicians and six expert agents, finding the causes of death from Habersham Country Sheriff’s Department, who requested them to do so. The investigation team will search the house throughout the night to find murder related facts. Joey Terrell of Habersham Country Sheriff told that if there is any success in the investigation of Nancy Schaefer and her husband, Bruce’s murder, a statement will be issued on Saturday morning. by Moran Atias for Global News, March 27, 2010

When word came down Friday evening that former state Sen. Nancy Schaefer and her husband Bruce were both dead in what was described as “a likely murder-suicide,” the story rightly generated a good deal of public interest. . . . Within minutes after the first article on the death was published in the AJC’s Political Insider column, the garbage started flying. Several anonymous posters, from parts unknown, began celebrating and joking about the death of Sen. Schaefer, with most of the comments attributing the shootings to her. . . . For the record, the authorities now believe Mrs. Schaefer was killed by her husband as she slept, and he then turned the gun on himself. Austin Rhodes for Metro Spirit

Habersham County Sheriff Joey Terrell said on Monday he had found no evidence that Bruce Schaefer was ill. "Talking with the family, talking with the daughter who sees them about every other day, they don't know anything about it," the sheriff said. "If he did, he kept it from them." Sheriff Terrell said Schaefer left a four-page suicide note at the couple's home near Clarkesville. He also left several letters addressed to family members. There may be indications that finances played a role in the case, Terrell said, but nothing he has seen so far establishes a clear motive. "The evidence might be in the letters. It might not," he said. "We might not ever know." The sheriff said he is awaiting a complete GBI report but "the investigation and the autopsy results have not uncovered any evidence to indicate it was anything other than a murder-suicide." The bodies of Bruce and Nancy Schaefer, 74 and 73 respectively, were discovered in their bed Friday evening by their daughter, who lived nearby. Evidence at the scene suggests Mrs. Schaefer was shot while asleep, Terrell said. Both were found in their bed, he said, the gun lying near Mr. Schaefer. A GBI medical examiner determined that Mrs. Schaefer died from a bullet to the back, while Mr. Schaefer died from one to the chest. He said agents still have more interviews to conduct and forensic reports to complete before the investigation is concluded. --Patrick Fox, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

As officials said Friday night, former state Sen. Nancy Schaefer and her husband Bruce Schaefer of Habersham County apparently died as a result of a murder/suicide.Reading from a statement about to be released, Sheriff Joey Terrell said, “The ongoing investigation by the Habersham County Sheriff’s Office and the GBI into the deaths of Nancy and Bruce Schaefer indicate that Bruce Schaefer shot his wife once then turned the gun on himself.”
Family members discovered the couple’s bodies in the bedroom of their home in The Orchard near Turnerville shortly before 6 p.m. Friday.Terrell said a handgun was found near the body of Bruce Schaefer and that several letters written by him to family members were found in the home, including a suicide note.
Autopsies conducted by a GBI medical examiner today “determined that Mrs. Schaefer died from a single gunshot wound to the back and Mr. Schaefer died from a single gunshot wound to the chest.
The investigation so far and the autopsy results have not uncovered any evidence to incident it is anything other than a murder/suicide.”Law enforcement officials believe Nancy Schaefer was asleep when she was shot, likely on Friday morning, Terrell said.

--Rob Moore, The Northeast Georgian, March 27 9:48 pm

Investigators believe the husband of former state Sen. Nancy Schaefer shot her in the back and then killed himself in their bedroom at home, authorities said Saturday. The couple's bodies were found in their north Georgia home on Friday in an apparent murder-suicide. Investigators concluded that Bruce Schaefer, 74, shot her once in the back in the bedroom and then shot himself in the head, Georgia Bureau of Investigation spokesman John Bankhead said in a prepared statement. Bankhead said investigators found a handgun near Bruce Schaefer's body and several letters written by Schaefer to family members, including a suicide note. . . . Authorities believe Nancy Schaefer was asleep when she was shot, probably sometime Friday morning, Habersham County Sheriff Joey Terrell told The Times newspaper of Gainesville. The sheriff said that "some financial problems were mentioned" in the notes left behind by Bruce Schaefer. "That might have been one reason," Terrell told the Gainesville newspaper. AP March 28

Contrary to early reports that Bruce Schaefer had cancer, the Gainesville Times reported March 27 that the couple's daughter, who discovered the bodies, told the local sheriff her father was not suffering from any serious illness at the time of the shootings. Habersham County Sheriff Joey Terrell said some of the letters mentioned serious financial problems and speculated that might have been a motive. --Bob Allen, Associated Baptist Press, March 29

William Bruce Schaefer Jr., a native of Toccoa, died March 26, 2010. Affectionately known as "Bear" or "PaPa" to his family and friends, Schaefer was born July 20, 1935. He was the son of Dr. Bruce and Orville Tyler Schaefer of Toccoa.
Although he lived and worked in Atlanta for 35 years, his roots were in the mountains of Northeast Georgia. After retiring in 1996, Schaefer moved back to Habersham County, went to church in Stephens County and spent much time in Rabun County. He was a member of Ebenezer Baptist Church of Toccoa.
During his formative years, he attended Culver Military Academy in Culver, Ind., and graduated in 1953. He attended Clemson University on a football scholarship and graduated in 1957. Schaefer was captain of the 1956-57 Clemson golf team. He received a commission in the U.S. Army from Clemson and served in 1957 and 1958. After service, he worked for The Trust Company of Georgia and then in the investment business, retiring from Dean Witter in 1996. He served as an officer of the National Association of Security Dealers, president of the Atlanta Quarterback Club and the Lakeside (HS) Touchdown Club and was a member of the Jaycees and the Capital City Club.
Schaefer was married to Nancy Smith Schaefer for more than 52 years.
He is survived by five children and 13 grandchildren: William Bruce Schaefer III and wife, Sherrill, children, Bruce IV and Ashley Isabelle; John Schaefer and wife, Mary, children, Mary Glenn, Maggie, Jack and Caleb; Josh Schaefer and wife, Sandee, children, Jake and Luke; Edward Schaefer and wife, Paula, children Paul, Spencer and Garland; Nancy Schaefer Almoyan and husband, Paul, children, Isabelle and Schaefer; sister, Tyler Schaefer Remsburg of Plantation, Fla.; and many nieces and nephews.

Nancy Smith Schaefer, a native of Rabun County, died on March 26, 2010.
She was born June 28, 1936, in Clayton. Nancy was the daughter of Judge Lamar Smith, a superior court judge of the Mountain Judicial Circuit, and Isabelle Coffee Smith, both of Clayton. She attended the University of Georgia, Atlanta College of Arts and Design and was a graduate of Wesleyan College.
Nancy was the president of Eagle Forum of Georgia, a conservative and pro-family organization helping men and women participate in the process of self-government and public policy making so that America will continue to be a land of individual liberty, respect for family integrity, public and private virtue, and private enterprise.
She was the founder and president of several non-profit organizations created to strengthen and protect the family: Family Concerns Inc., Citizens for Public Awareness and Family Concerns Pregnancy Center in Atlanta. She was Georgia state senator from the 50th District, first woman candidate for governor of Georgia (1998), candidate for lieutenant governor of Georgia (1994), and candidate for mayor of Atlanta (1993). She was chosen as a Gracious Lady of Georgia and was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). She was the first woman trustee of Toccoa Falls College.
Mrs. Schaefer was a member of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Toccoa. She was an eight-year trustee of the National Ethics and Religions Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and former vice president of the SBC. She represented Family Concerns and SBC at the United Nations Fourth Work Conference on Women, Beijing, China; at the U.N. Conference on Human Settlements, Istanbul, Turkey; at the U.N. Conference on Food, Rome, Italy; and the U.N. follow-up conference to Beijing in New York. She also had spoken on the "Unlimited Power of Child Protective Services" at the World Congress of Families, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and to the Nordic Community on Human Rights in Sweden.
Mrs. Schaefer was married to William Bruce Schaefer Jr. for more than 52 years.
She is survived by five children and 13 grandchildren: William Bruce Schaefer III and wife, Sherrill, children, Bruce IV and Ashley Isabelle; John Schaefer and wife, Mary, children, Mary Glenn, Maggie, Jack and Caleb; Josh Schaefer and wife, Sandee, children, Jake and Luke; Edward Schaefer and wife, Paula, children Paul, Spencer and Garland; Nancy Schaefer Almoyan and husband, Paul, children, Isabelle and Schaefer; a sister, Elsie Smith Simpson and husband, Sam, of Athens; many nieces and nephews.
--The Northwest Georgian, March 30

And, from the archives: Note the 'died' field. This was updated before the announcement was even made on the floor of the State House:

Born June 28, 1936
Died March 26, 2010 (73 years)
Contributor JR725
Last Modifed Mar 26, 2010 07:13pm
Tags Very Conservative - Anti-Gay Marriage - Pro-Life -
Info Senator Nancy Schaefer was born in Rabun County and now lives with her husband, Bruce, in Habersham County. The Schaefers have five children and thirteen grandchildren.

Nancy is the President and Founder of Family Concerns, Inc., a non-profit organization located in Georgia; Family Concerns was created in 1986 for the purpose of strengthening and protecting the family through local, state, national and international policy, and through the education of citizens and leaders in the vital importance of obeying God's moral law in our society and in our culture. She is the founder of Citizens for Public Awareness Inc., a lobbying arm for Family Concerns. She was Founder and President of the Family Concerns Pregnancy Center (1988-1998), which met the needs of over 5000 girls and women in the Atlanta area.

Mrs. Schaefer has been a host of "Live Talk With Nancy" daily commentaries, and "Family Concerns with Nancy Schaefer" in WNIV in Atlanta, GA. Mrs. Schaefer was the Republican Nominee for Lt. Governor in 1994 and the first woman Candidate for Governor of Georgia in 1998.

As an eight year Trustee of the National Ethics and Religions Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), Mrs. Schaefer represented Family Concerns and the SBC at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China, at the U.N. Conference on Human Settlements in Istanbul, Turkey, at the U.N. Conference on Food in Rome, Italy, and the U.N. follow up Conference to Beijing in New York.

She is a former First Vice President of the Georgia Baptist Convention, a frequent speaker to churches of all denominations, a speaker to civic and political organizations, and a frequent guest on radio and local and national television programs across the nation. She is also a Sunday School Teacher.

Mrs. Schaefer was chosen as a Gracious Lady of Georgia, served on numerous advisory boards and directorships and in 2001 became the first woman Trustee for Toccoa Falls College in Toccoa, Georgia. She is married to Bruce Schaefer, and they are parents of four sons and one daughter. They also have 13 grandchildren. Nancy and Bruce recently moved from Atlanta, where they have resided for 35 years, to Clarkesville, Georgia (Habersham County) in North Georgia.

Senator Schaefer represents the 50th district, including Banks, Franklin, Habersham, Hart, Rabun Stevens, and Towns Counties, as well as part of White County.
08/05/2008 GA State Senate 50 - R Runoff Lost 37.68% (-24.65%)
07/15/2008 GA State Senate 50 - R Primary Won 37.52% (+0.00%)
11/07/2006 GA State Senate 50 Won 52.91% (+5.82%)
11/02/2004 GA State Senate 50 Won 58.01% (+16.01%)
08/10/2004 GA State Senate 50 - R Runoff Won 53.61% (+7.23%)
07/20/2004 GA State Senate 50 - R Primary Won 47.01% (+7.49%)
07/21/1998 GA Governor - R Primary Lost 7.72% (-42.66%)
11/08/1994 GA Lt. Governor Lost 42.48% (-11.83%)
11/02/1993 Atlanta Mayor - Inital Election Lost 11.09% (-37.89%)

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Schaefer was born in Rabun County and graduated from High School in Stephens County. She married Bruce Schaefer of Toccoa, Ga., the son of Dr. and Mrs. Bruce Schaefer. The Schaefers reside in Habersham County. They have five children and thirteen grandchildren. Their fourth son, Edward, is the executive director of the Athens Y Camps for boys and girls in Tallulah Falls, Ga. He also owns a business with his brother Josh in Toccoa, Ga. Nancy and Paul Almoyan, their daughter and son-in-law, are the proprietors of Isabelle’s Restaurant in Tallulah Falls, Ga. Other sons, Bruce and John, reside in Atlanta and South Carolina.
Republican Party of Habersham County


Mrs. Bruce Schaefer of Toccoa was on the State Board of Education in 1962. In 1963 and 1965 Mrs. Bruce Schaefer was the Director, Georgia Department of Family & Children Services. From 1963 to 1967 Mrs. Bruce Schaefer, Lakemont, was on the State Commission on the Status of Women.

Orville Tyler Schaefer
Brenau Women's College 1930, 1908 ->1988
Achievements
* Director of the State Welfare Department, which later became DFACS
* Speaker, lecturer
* Member of the Georgia Democratic Executive Committee (12 years - chair for 4 years)
* Georgia delegate to the national Democratic Conventions in 1956, 1960 and 1964
* Member of the Brenau Board of Trustees
* President of the National Brenau Alumnae Association
* First Brenau alumna to deliver commencement address
* Chaired the Brenau 90th anniversary celebration
Community Involvement Included:
* President of the Medical Association of Georgia Auxiliary Women of the Church, Athens Presbytery Member, Governor's Commission on Aging
* Chair, Greater Atlanta Commission on Crime and Delinquency
* Better Health Council of Georgia

Orville's father, Edward Schaefer, was a charter member of the Episcopal Church in Toccoa. He owned the first telephone system in Toccoa and The Toccoa News. He also served as president of the Bank of Toccoa.

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Well, we still don't know what happened. And we're not going to claim we do until either the police or the family come forward and tell us what was in the documents left behind by the murderer.

I'll continue to add news items as they break in the space below.
The couple’s lives ended suddenly last Friday, in a way no one expected. Police say Bruce Schaefer, 74, killed his wife of 52 years while she slept. Then after shooting his 73-year-old wife, he turned the gun on himself. Their daughter found the bodies at their Habersham County home. So on a sunny Wednesday afternoon, mourners streamed into Toccoa’s Ebenezer Baptist Church to bow and pray. And to try and make sense of it all.
Former Atlanta residents, the Schaefers were renowned for their involvement in right-to-life issues and other traditionally conservative causes; to die as they did, friends said, was nearly unbelievable.
“There were moments, in the past few days, when I said, ‘Lord, I don’t understand
this,’ ” said the Rev. Andy Childs, one of two speakers in the 70-minute funeral service. Before him, flanked by carnations, rested two caskets, each draped with an American flag. A spray of roses lay on one.
Childs paused and looked at more than 300 people, including legislators who came from Atlanta to say goodbye to their former colleague, who served two terms in the Senate until her defeat in 2008. She also had been a candidate for mayor of Atlanta as well as lieutenant governor and governor. Her husband was a retired stockbroker. They had five children and 13 grandchildren. They also had friends who are trying to understand their deaths, Childs said.
“Intense hurt,” he said, “leads to intense hope.”
The Schaefers specialized in hope, said Kay Arthur, founder of Precept Ministries International. Based in Chattanooga, the nonprofit organization specializes in teaching Bible lessons worldwide. She and Nancy Schaefer, said Arthur, had similar beliefs, hopes and politics.
“They didn’t go the way we expected them to go,” said Arthur. “But they went, and they went to God Almighty.
“Don’t think of the way they died,” she continued. “Think of the way they lived.”
They lived good lives, said Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp. Wednesday morning, he and about 30 legislators boarded a chartered bus for the 100-mile trip from Atlanta to Stephens County.
“It’s hard to understand a situation like this,” said Kemp. “And that’s not for us to speculate on.”
The service ended as it began, with a woman on a harp and her father playing the violin. They played the old standards, “How Great Thou Art” and “It Is Well With My Soul,” among others.
Their music rose in the spring air of northeast Georgia, sunny and filled with daffodils waving in the wind, as a van carried two caskets away to a private graveside service.
--Mark Davis, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Well, we can't say this isn't being investigated by anyone. Here's more from Rob Moore at The Northeast Georgian:
Whether financial troubles were the motive for the March 26 murder-suicide of Nancy and Bruce Schaefer of Turnerville isn't known.
What is clear is that financial problems were plaguing the couple.
At 9:06 a.m. Wednesday, March 31, hours before the Schaefers' funeral in Toccoa, The Northeast Georgian received a legal advertisement of notice of sale under power to secure debt by Nancy S. Schaefer.That legal advertisement notice states the original principal amount was $755,000.
The home is scheduled to be sold "at a public outcry for cash to the highest bidder before the courthouse door of Habersham County" during legal hours of sale on the first Tuesday of May (May 4).
The 4,700-square-foot house, located at 458 Yates Circle, Clarkesville, is located within the private, gated golf course community known as The Orchard near Turnerville.
The home is valued at $629,000, according to the Habersham County Tax Assessors' Office.


And this from WLHR, Lake Hartwell Radio:

Nancy and Bruce Schaefer were found dead in their bed March 26th by their eldest daughter, in what GBI investigators say was a murder suicide. Investigators said Bruce shot his wife in the back while she slept sometime Thursday night then within hours shot himself once in the chest. A motive for the murder suicide is not known.

Bruce Schaefer left a four-page suicide note as well as other letters to members of his family. However, the contents of the suicide note or the other letters have not been made public.


UPDATE NOVEMBER 2011 Well, a year and a half has gone by, and--no surprise--the "suicide notes" have never been released. Officials are no doubt hoping the story has gone away--but people continue to search for the real answers. I'm sorry that I can't offer them here, other than to say that the Shaefers do appear to have done one really stupid thing, that may have contributed to their deaths: they borrowed more than they could afford to buy their house in a gated community. One of the main things that background investigators always look for is excessive debt, as it makes someone a security risk. For that, and whatever other crimes she was perceived to have committed against the powers that be, Nancy Shaefer was murdered. And it's highly unlikely that anyone will ever be charged with the murder.

1 comment:

  1. Seems you are on to something here

    ReplyDelete

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