Texas Town Grieves Over Brutal Slayings

ATF agents shovel and pick through the charred remains of a rural Alba, Texas home on March 1, 2008. A mother and two children were killed during a pre-dawn attack on their remote East Texas ranch; another man was critically injured.
ATF agents shovel and pick through the charred remains of a rural Alba, Texas home on March 1, 2008. A mother and two children were killed during a pre-dawn attack on their remote East Texas ranch; another man was critically injured.


Church services in this rural town were deadened by grief Sunday after police charged a teenage girl with helping to kill most of her family.

Angry that her parents demanded she break up with her boyfriend, the teenager helped kill her mother and two brothers during a grisly weekend ambush at the family's rural wooded home, authorities said Sunday.

The 16-year-old girl joined her boyfriend and two others in shooting and stabbing members of the Caffey family in their bedrooms before setting the house on fire, authorities said, confirming what most in this small farming town had known since the pre-dawn attack Saturday.

The lone survivor was Terry Caffey, the father. He was shot five times - including twice in the back - before he was able to drag his bloodied body through the woods in search of help. He was awaiting surgery Sunday to remove the bullets, Rains County Sheriff David Traylor said.

The girl, who police confirmed as the family's daughter but whose name was withheld because of her age, was arraigned Sunday on three counts of capital murder and was being held on $1.5 million bond.

Three others between the ages of 18 and 20, including the girl's suspected boyfriend, were arraigned on the same charges and given the same bond.

"Early on in the investigation, it was revealed that the juvenile and one of the suspects were dating and made to break up," the Rains County Sheriff's Department said in a release.

Charlie James Wilkinson, 19; Charles Allen Waid, 20; and Bobbi Gale Johnson, 18, all of Emory, were being held at the Rains County jail. It was not immediately clear if they had attorneys.

The 16-year-old daughter is confined in neighboring Hunt County's juvenile detention center in Greenville. Investigators said she was found hiding at the home of one of the suspects, though it was not immediately clear which of the suspects she was dating.

The scene of the attack was about 20 acres of pine-canopied, remote woodland in Alba on a narrow gravel road with just two other homes. The town is about 60 miles northeast of Dallas in Rains County, the second-smallest county in Texas.

The victims were identified as Penny Caffey, 37, and sons Tyler, 8, and Matthew, 13.

All were members of Miracle Faith Baptist Church, where about 80 congregants wept on blue-cushioned pews and clutched small children to their side during a somber Sunday morning sermon.

Pastor Todd McGahee struggled to keep his composure as he remembered Penny "getting after it" on the church piano and her sons playing guitar with her.

"When I first heard, I was like, 'I don't even think I would have crawled out of the house,"' McGahee told worshippers. "But God has a purpose for Terry's life. God has a reason. God gave him the strength to get out."

McGahee implored worshippers to pray for the Caffey's daughter and not blame the parents of the suspects, at least one of whom attended the small church.

"There's been a change in this church and a change in this community," McGahee said. "And we can't just wish it away. ... It will be the same loss, the same hurt tomorrow. There's been that change in our lives."

Carl Johnson, a friend of the family, said the family moved about two years ago to just outside this rural farming town of about 1,500. He called the family good Christians and said he often told the daughter that he wanted her soft singing voice to perform at his funeral.

"They didn't like the boy and were trying to break them up," Johnson said. "They told me at church they didn't have any use for him."

Autopsies have been ordered on the dead family members. Rains County Sheriff David Traylor said investigators haven't been able to determine whether the fire or gunshots caused their deaths because "the bodies have been so badly burned."

Authorities said they have recovered one weapon and are searching for another.

The family's home sat about three miles off U.S. 69, the main two-lane highway near Emory. Hay bales, horses and cattle dot the landscape down the county road leading to their secluded house, where a picnic table and burned van sit near the pile of black ash that is all that remains of the homes.

A wood sign tacked to a tree in the family's dirt driveway read "Joshua 24:15," a verse from the Old Testament that reads, in part, "But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."