It’s Not Supposed To Happen Here….July 5, 2009 - 6:15 PM | by: Brooks Blanton
Gaffney, South Carolina is nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains along Interstate 85, about halfway between Greenville and Charlotte, North Carolina. Billboards along the fast moving freeway entice drivers to pull off here to buy produce, gas up, eat or spend the night in this peach-producing town of about 54,000. Even the city’s peach-shaped water tower reflects the agricultural feel in this part of the Palmetto State.
But fear and anxiety suddenly ripped through the town square and the peach orchards that make up this part of The Upstate. On what should be a happy and bustling holiday weekend, residents are instead staying home, looking over their shoulders and some even arming themselves after a serial killer has shaken this small town to it’s core.
“You can feel it in the air that people are really scared,” says Jo Dye who has lived in Gaffney all her life. “I know that the police are working as hard as they can, I just hope they catch him before he hurts somebody else.”
Friends and family members streamed into The First Baptist Church in downtown Gaffney this afternoon. It’s a typical scene on any Sunday in small town America, but these people were showing up to say their last goodbye to a mother and daughter. 83 year old Hazel Linder and her 50 year old daughter Gena Linder Parker were laid to rest today. They were victims number two and three in this seven day murder spree. They were both shot last Wednesday inside Hazel’s home just outside Gaffney.
About 24 hours later, another massive blow to this community already fearing what could possibly happen next. A father and daughter were gunned down in their family’s furniture business. What is so shocking is that the killer struck at 7:15 pm, still very much daylight here, and at a place that is literally three blocks from the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office. Forty eight year old Stephen Tyler died at the scene, his 15 year old daughter Abby was seriously wounded and still alive. She was flown to a nearby hospital, but died a day later.
It’s enough to make Jo Dye uneasy in a town she has called home all her life. She says the town is noticeably quiet, unusual for a summer afternoon in Gaffney. Although she refuses to stop living her daily life. But she admits, she won’t rest until whoever is terrorizing Gaffney is caught.
“I’m not afraid to get out, but I am much more cautious and I do look and I do observe a lot more,” Dye says. “And I think that is pretty much what everyone is doing now. We’re just being a little more observant, a little more cautious.”