The body of eighty-year-old Esther Gaffney was discovered in her secluded home after a July 2004 weekend of moving preparations. The home was partially burned in an apparent attempt to cover up the crime. According to Michigan State Police, she was murdered between 7/10 and 7/12/2004. Her name was on the list I received which contained seven others, each corresponding to an unsolved homicide case attributed to the Reed City State Police Post.
In the weeks before the release of my next book, [Redacted]: A Search for Truth About the Murder of Janette Roberson, I will be spotlighting some of the other homicide cases from the same area that remain unsolved. Each, at its heart, is about a person, and those people have names.
One of those people is Esther Gaffney. When I spoke to her sister, Ruth Wagner-Belisle, she said Esther and her late husband Charles Gaffney (former Detective Sergeant with Michigan State Police) were both good marksmen, and lived on 80 acres of hunting property. At the time of her murder, Esther was in the middle of a move to Cadillac to be closer to her church. She'd had some garage sales in an effort to get rid of things she wouldn't have room for.
|Ruth with Esther and her husband Charles in happier times.|
Tustin, MI - 1999
|Esther and her family at an anniversary party circa July 1998.|
(from left to right: Patricia Gaffney, Timothy Gaffney,
Kathy Stadtfelt, Esther and her husband, Chuck.)
Over the years, Esther's sister has been given very little information about the status of the case, only that it is open and being investigated, but she has never been told if there are any suspects or persons of interest.
The following tribute to Esther was written by her sister, Ruth:
"Anyone who knew my sister well, knew what a special person she was. She was intelligent, fun to be with and totally open and honest in her dealings with others. With Essie it was strictly, What you see is what you get. There was no pretense about her. If she felt strongly about an issue, even if it was controversial, she'd state her mind in no uncertain terms. Neither did she shy away from taking positions of leadership, whether in her church or in other organizations with which she was involved."
"She enjoyed many interests during her lifetime. First and foremost was her family and her religion. But she also enjoyed music, golfing, antiques, garage sales, hunting, gardening, painting and crafts, and especially her work with her church, for example, playing the organ for worship services, serving on the building and organ committees, offering a hand wherever it was needed, and singing in choir. When she and her family lived in the Flint area, she enjoyed singing with the Sweet Adelines."
"She had experienced some hardships in life, but the one thing that always got her through the tough times was her faith in God and in her Savior, Jesus Christ. In everything she did her faith shined through like a beacon of light for us all to see. She did not flaunt her faith or her religion as the Pharisees did, but it was always there... in the way she talked and in the way she conducted herself and her life."
"I will miss our travels, our cousin get-togethers, our phone conversations and knowing she is always there with wise advice when I have a problem or concern. She was a good sister and friend to me, and it's a great comfort to know that, despite her tragic end, she has now joined our other family members in heaven with her Savior."
If you have any information about the murder of Esther Gaffney, please contact:
Detective Sgt. Mike Stephens
Mt. Pleasant Post-Special Investigations Section
Michigan State Police