On March 1, 2008, Caffey’s life was shattered when his wife and two sons were murdered in his Emory, Texas home. Caffey himself was shot repeatedly and narrowly survived by making it to a neighbor’s home while his house was engulfed in flames by the murderers in an unsuccessful attempt to cover up the slaughter.
What makes the story compelling and disturbing at the same time is that Caffey’s teenage daughter, Erin, was central in plotting the murders with her boyfriend and other accomplices. Erin Caffey has been convicted and will first be eligible for parole when she is 59 years old.
Equally compelling is the fact that Caffey has publicly forgiven his daughter and has even posted pictures of himself with Erin in her prison jumpsuit, his new wife and stepchildren. Caffey is by all written and self-proclaimed accounts a Christian whose faith has allowed him to move forward with his life and forgive his daughter.
Caffey’s journey is well-chronicled in a three-part series by Dallas Morning News reporter Scott Farwell. The package includes a video and a police report, neither of which would be easy for someone squeamish about extreme violence to watch or read.
Caffey was in a Morning News chat room Tuesday for about an hour. Questions were obviously monitored, but even so several posts displayed a deep skepticism about Caffey’s motives for going public about his story, including starting up his own ministry to share his experience with others.
In the opening stages of the chat, Caffey fended off questions by posters apparently from Rains County, Texas, who were upset about a mention in one of the stories that Erin had encountered bisexuality among students at her school.
“And what justifiable proof do you have to charge such things to a community? Did you take a poll or something or ask second graders if they liked boys or girls?” a poster asked.
Caffey downplayed the significance of the bisexual commentary.
“You are right, the bisexual comments were irrelevant of (sic) the story,” he wrote. “I just spoke of one incident while my daughter was attending school there. Many people think that is the reason why we home schooled (before high school), that is not the case. Erin was having a learning disability and I have high respect for the school and the citizens on Rains County.”
Caffey was also criticized for not returning to the burning home to try and save his family even though, he said, he knew they were already dead despite his panicked state. Some posters interpreted reports of smoke found in his 12-year-old son Tyler’s lungs as a sign of smoke inhalation and that he could have been rescued.
Caffey wrote: “You are correct partly, they said possibly there were traces of smoke in Tyler’s lungs. I was able to get to Penny (his wife), but when I saw her, she was nearly decapitated. She was for sure already gone, the notion that I would just leave my family inside and just walk away is crazy….. I would have died for them if I could have.
“I have gone through and seen images that most people would never go through. Maybe only a combat soldier. So, most people will never know what I go through on a daily basis. For some to say that I have moved on and am living the good life, should come spend one day with me.”
The references to the “good life” were precipitated by his re-marriage and accusations he is using his ministry to cash in on his own tragedy.
“First of all, if I never rec’d (sic) one dime from the book, that would be fine,” Caffey wrote. “My hope and prayer is to reach out to those that are hurting. And as far as the CD goes, I have giving (sic) away more than I have sold. It costs money to have these made, but if I ever make a profit it is to fund my ministry.
“It takes gas and other resources to get to my speaking engagements. And as far as the TV appearances go, I haven’t done any yet, however the publishers that publish books will not a touch a book deal unless they think that it is marketable.”
Caffey was also accused of being naïve about forgiving his daughter. He disputed aspects of the police report which made her seem like the main planner of the attacks. He did acknowledge she could have played an active role in preventing them once they were put in motion.
He was also questioned why he didn’t adhere to the biblical principle of “an eye for an eye” (Matthew 5:38) and opted on the side of forgiveness and reconciliation.
“If we want to throw religion into it (direct response to a remark made by a poster), we can look up in the Bible on what it says about this — God says vengeance is mine, I will repay (Deuteronomy 32:41), and it goes on to say love those who persecute you. (Matthew 5:11-12) Jesus was the perfect example for forgiveness — he displayed that on the cross, while we were yet sinners- he died for all, including murderers.”
Caffey also received quite a bit of support from readers during the chat, many with accusations of rushing to judgment without having been in the same position themselves.
“Some people need to give their thoughts a backseat and be a little more sensitive to the situation that has taken place,” one poster wrote. “Nobody in this chat can come close to comprehending what Terry has had to go through. Save your childish thoughts about his personal life and cutting remarks about his family to yourself.”