Missing woman's kids will stay with familiar faces

Robert McCaffrey, pictured left, was in court Thursday with his attorney for the hearing to place his children. (John Gaddy/WCIV)

By Natalie

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - Robert McCaffrey walked into a court room and sat quietly next to his attorney and waited for nearly an hour.

He intended to get his children out of protective custody and back with family, according to his attorney Christopher Lizzi. Charleston County Sheriff's authorities had taken the children into custody as they questioned McCaffrey about the disappearance of his wife, Gayle McCaffrey.

He claims he last saw her Saturday night. Investigators have been looking for her ever since he filed a missing person's report on Sunday afternoon.

Across the courtroom on Thursday, Gayle's sister Debbie Pearson also waited. They also want the children back with family. After attorneys with the Department of Social Services, Charleston County Sheriff's detectives and McCaffrey's attorney Mr. Lizzi came out of the judge's chambers, an agreement had been reached.

Lizzi leaned over and whispered in McCaffrey's ear, who nodded. Attorneys announced they had agreed custody would be granted to Debbie Pearson.

"We're very pleased that the courts have given us custody of the children. We are going to get them home, get them back to family and get them settled and then we're going to find my sister," Pearson said after the hearing.

Gayle's husband will be allowed visitation, but only supervised at the Dee Norton Lowcountry Children's Center.

Attorney's called the hearing a probable cause case, but officials have not publicly or specifically announced why sheriff's investigators don't want the children, ages 4 and 10, with their father.

According to an incident report provided by the Charleston County Sheriff's Office, Robert McCaffrey reported his wife missing by calling 911 on 5:16 pm on Sunday.

When deputies arrived, the report says McCaffrey told them he and his wife have been trying to save their marriage. He told them that the day before, after going out for a meal, the two returned home and argued.

McCaffrey then told authorities he left to "get some space and time away" and went to a home in Easley, which is listed as the address on his driver's license. Investigators say he didn't go to the home, although he was in the upstate.

According to Travelers Rest police, McCaffrey received a speeding ticket on State Park Road in Travelers Rest at 2:30 a.m. Police Chief Lance Crowe says McCaffrey traveled south bound on Highway 25 towards Greenville.

McCaffrey told a 911 operator when he returned to his home in West Ashley at 6:30 a.m., his wife was gone and she had left behind her wedding ring, car keys and check book. Investigators say they also found a typed note in the home but would not release its contents.

According to Lizzi, investigators spoke to McCaffrey for five hours after he reported his wife missing. Tuesday Major Jim Brady said McCaffrey was no longer cooperating and on Thursday when asked, Chief Deputy John Clark said he couldn't say that he was either.

The children were taken into emergency protective custody during McCaffrey's questioning. Now, they will return to family as sheriff's detectives work to find their mother.

"We want to get the kids back with family so that they're in a comfortable place where they've been before and we want to focus on Gayle," Pearson said.

At a press conference after Thursday's court hearing, Chief Deputy Clark said a person of interest was identified and that Robert McCaffrey had not been ruled out.

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