Ahhh, to be young and in love. It seems like such a wonderful feeling, doesn’t it? Everyone has fallen head over heels for someone at some point or another, planning their future and wanting to cruise off into the sunset together. Sometimes, though, that goes a little too far. Sometimes young lovers have to deal with a bump in the road to get what they want. Erin Caffey was one of those people.
Erin Caffey found herself in love with one of her coworkers. They started dating and got a little too serious, a little too quickly, at least in her parents’ eyes. She was willing to go as far as she needed to in order to be with the boy she loved. She took things to the next level and plotted the murder of her family in order to have the future she wanted with her boyfriend. The rest is gruesome.
Erin’s Early Life
Erin Michelle Caffey was just like any other kid growing up in Texas. She was born on July 27th, 1991, in Rains County, Texas. Raised in a very conservative Christian household, she was desperate to break out and live life by her own rules. Little did she know that she would go to extreme levels later in life to do this.
Her parents were ministers at a local conservative Baptist church, and the family attended church at every opportunity they could. Her family moved to be closer to their congregation, Miracle Faith. The family was very old-fashioned, and it did not take long for them to pull Erin out of her public school to pursue private homeschooling.
When Erin started eighth grade, she attended her local public school. She was quickly pulled out of school when a girl in her class tried to kiss her. Homophobia was a massive problem in their community, and the Caffey family saw this act as horrific and grounds to pull all three of their children out of school.
The family reacted to the kiss by “abruptly pulling their children out of school a month into the academic year, and Penny began teaching them a Bible-based curriculum at home.” Her mother and father took her out of a school where she might have learned necessary social skills. She felt cornered and alone.
A Threat in Their Mind
The Caffey family was next-level conservative. They did not understand the spectrum of sexuality and were not going to “risk” having their children around corrupting influences. According to Erin’s father, Terry Caffey, bisexuality was deemed a threat. They could not comprehend any form of relationship that was not between a man and woman.
Terry claimed that the family was “shocked by a culture of bisexuality.” He even went as far as blaming bisexual culture for sending his daughter down a dark path. In his mind, it was bisexuality and the confusion of having a classmate of the same gender kiss her that scrambled her mind “before she finally veered off into the premarital relationship that turned deadly.”
An Isolated Existence
When she began being homeschooled, her life revolved solely around going to church and staying at home with her family. Their home was six miles from town, and she began to feel incredibly isolated. After some time convincing her parents, she was allowed to start working at the local Sonic drive thru.
If she were not stuck at home, she would have been as social as she had been in the past. When she began her job, a coworker observed how isolated and sheltered she had been, as if she had never experienced the outside world before. “She was so sheltered. It was like she was seeing the world for the first time,” her colleague said.
Erin’s New Boyfriend
While working at Sonic, Erin met her new boyfriend, Charlie Wilkinson. Charlie was a senior at the local high school and was known for being a bit of a hothead. Though he had some apparent temper issues, he was never arrested or formally disciplined at school. The two got involved and quickly started spending every waking moment together.
Erin’s parents disapproved of their relationship and started placing restrictions on when they could see each other. The two dated for a few months before Charlie decided it was time to present Erin with his grandmother’s engagement ring. It was not quite a proposal but rather a promise and commitment to building a future with her one day.
It is no surprise that Erin’s parents were not very excited to learn that their young daughter received a promise ring, especially from someone they did not like. Terry and Penny started placing even more restrictions on the couple’s time together, only allowing her to see Charlie once a week, in their home, under their watch. That is some strict parenting.
No teenager likes to be told what to do or who they can and cannot spend their time with. Furious, Erin was determined to keep doing things as she wanted to. Her parents would ground her when she communicated with Charlie without their permission. They would take away her keys and phone and do whatever they could to keep them apart. This sparked fury in Erin that would change everything.
Beginning to Plan the Murders
When her parents began placing more and more restrictions on her relationship, she started looking at her options for living the life that she wanted. She wanted to run away with Charlie, something he later claimed he begged her to do. Erin decided on something far more extreme than that.
In place of running away, Erin told Charlie that “killing [her] parents was [their] best option.” That is a pretty huge decision to make for simply not getting your way. The two began to plan and assembled a couple of Charlie’s friends who would help carry out their deadly scheme.
The Wrecking Crew
On March 1st, 2008, Charlie Wilkinson, Erin’s boyfriend, and his friends Charles Waid and Bobbi Johnson headed toward the Caffey family home. Wilkinson promised Waid $2,000 to help carry out the murder, though he didn’t have it all at the time. They would be able to get the total amount when the job was done – it required stealing money from the family as they fought for their lives.
Wilkinson was dating Caffey, and Charles Waid was dating Bobbi Johnson, which is likely why she was part of the crew of murderers. Wilkinson and Caffey spent weeks planning the massacre before getting the other two involved.
About Charlie James Wilkinson
Before he massacred Penny Caffey and her two sons, Charlie Wilkinson was just a student at Rains High School. Students who attended school with him recalled him constantly getting scolded in class, with him continuing to ignore their threats. He had a reason for everything.
A student in his English class claimed that he was scolded frequently, including the week of the murder. This was back in the days of MySpace accounts, and when he was yelled at in class for using a computer, he claimed his girlfriend’s father had hacked his account. That showed his priorities.
About Charles Allen Waid
Charles Waid was 20 years old when he was roped into murdering Erin Caffey’s family. He had fathered a baby girl just a few months before committing his crimes against a family he did not know. Though they had not been together for a while before his heinous acts were committed, he was married.
He was raised in a Christian household and went to church with his family weekly. His estranged wife, who declined to be identified, said that he was a pretty good guy, and she could not imagine him doing something so extreme. The two were married for about a year and a half before they broke up. His behavior started to change after that.
About Bobbi Gale Johnson
Bobbi Johnson was Charles Waid’s girlfriend at the time of the murders. When the two began dating, he pulled away from his family and did not seem to want to have any fatherly commitments. Bobbi Johnson did not have a reputation for being a screw-up or a bad kid, so her actions shocked everyone in her life.
By all accounts, Bobbi was a good student who was active in the school community. She was involved with the theater department and did not have a reputation for being a troubled kid. The school community was most shocked that she was involved.
Carrying Out the Plan
When Erin’s family went to bed, her boyfriend and his friends began to massacre the Caffeys. They pulled into their driveway, the boys got out of the car, and the girls remained, waiting for the act to be done. Wilkinson told Caffey that in order to get away with killing her parents, they would need to kill her brothers as well. She reportedly said, “I don’t care, just do what you gotta do.”
When the boys made it to her parents’ room, they started shooting at the couple with a .22 pistol. Terry took multiple bullets not only to his body but to his face. Penny was then shot, and when Wilkinson’s gun jammed, he switched to a samurai sword he brought along. She was nearly decapitated.
The Next Steps
Once the parents were “taken care of,” the boys went upstairs to work on the children. They were brutally murdered after their parents. Their father Terry was not dead yet – he would fortunately survive. As he drifted in and out of consciousness, he heard his sons plead for mercy.
Terry heard his son Matthew cry out, wondering what on earth was happening. “No, Charlie. No. Why are you doing this?” Tyler was killed first by a gunshot to the face after the killers found him hiding in the closet. Matthew was murdered in an even more gruesome manner. The two murderers took turns using the samurai sword on him.
They Robbed the Family
If it was not enough to just take their lives, Wilkinson and Waid stole whatever they could from the family’s home. Waid was promised a sum of $2,000, about half of which was to be taken from the family’s lockbox in the bathroom, next to the washer and dryer.
They took the money and any valuables they could. After looting the home, they poured lighter fluid across the house, over all the furniture to set the home ablaze. It was not enough in Erin’s eyes for her family to be murdered – every trace needed to be destroyed; they would burn the house to the ground.
Terry’s Miraculous Escape
Somehow, Terry Caffey managed to survive the brutal attack. He was shot five times, including at least once in the head and chest. He was blown off the bed and drifted in and out of consciousness. He awoke to his house becoming engulfed in flames. He was terrified and knew he had to try to get out.
As the house burned, Terry continued to bleed from his multiple gunshot wounds. He saw his wife with her nearly decapitated head and was devastated. By the grace of some higher power, he managed to crawl out of the flames to the nearest neighbor’s home, 300 yards away. He left a trail of blood behind him.
Reaching Out for Help
When Caffey made it to his neighbor’s house, they instantly called for help. The 911 dispatcher asked where Caffey was bleeding from, to which the neighbor responded, “where isn’t he bleeding from?” The area was so secluded that even the closest neighbors recalled only faintly hearing the commotion.
To break your heart even further, the family’s black Labrador, who fortunately was not harmed in the massacre, waited by the ashes of the home. He waited for his owners to return, never quite knowing what happened to them. Dogs are intelligent creatures, so maybe their pooch managed to put the pieces together.
The Mastermind Behind It All
It is no shock to learn that Erin was responsible for it all. She waited in the car as her boyfriend, and his friend tore her family apart. Her co-criminals supposedly begged her to run away, not to take things so far. She refused, stating, “this is the only way; this is our only option.”
When her father was taken to East Texas Medical Center in Tyler, Texas, authorities searched for the surviving member of the family. She was found hiding inside a trailer that belonged to Waid’s older brother. Though she was not initially considered a suspect, all three of her accomplices shared the same story: Erin planned it all.
She Tried to Plan This Before
It is unclear if she tried to enlist her former boyfriend to commit the murders before Wilkinson and his crew carried it out; she had proposed the idea to a previous boyfriend. It is not clear if she wanted them dead when the two were together or if she just asked him to do her this as a favor after they had broken up.
This ex-boyfriend, Michael Washburn, had met Caffey at a church camp when they were 16. He knew that she snuck around often because she had strict parents. One day, she came to him and asked how he would feel about killing her family and burning their house down. “No one would ever know,” she’d said. In Washburn’s words, he said, “You crazy b**ch! Get out of my house!”
The Murders Were Postponed
Initially, the killing team planned to carry out their crimes a week earlier. However, they ran into a roadblock when Erin’s grandfather, Terry’s father, passed away. Erin mourned alongside her father and the rest of the family, knowing that they would have already been dead if not for his “untimely” passing.
You might argue that she was considerate, but she was only thinking about herself. It seemed that she had a slight change of heart for a brief moment, but she threw it all away in a selfish act of betrayal toward the people who gave her life.
What Did She Do After the Murders?
Not long after her family was terrorized, Erin Caffey and her boyfriend Charlie had sex. It was the first thing that the couple did after the murders were complete; they went back to Wilkinson’s trailer and got intimate. If that does not creep you out or send chills up and down your spine, maybe this will.
This is called sexual sadism. People with sexual sadism disorder are those who have sexual fantasies related to someone’s suffering. This often comes in the form of psychological and physical violence, as well as humiliation and terror. This can be toward a sexual partner or someone unrelated.
Back at the Church
Terry Gaffey was a youth pastor at Miracle Faith Baptist Church. Penny played piano for the congregation. Their church community was torn apart by everything that happened, and some members even pulled away from the church because they did not know how to handle their grief.
Pastor Todd McGahee urged his congregation to pray both for the victims and their murderers. He stated that many could not handle the stress of the situation. The other girl involved, Bobbi Johnson, had grandparents who were also members of the same congregation. They could never have seen the girl who sang gospel solos on Sundays committing such a heinous crime against her own family.
When Terry Caffey first met Charlie, he knew he did not like him. Erin came home and told her parents that she had met someone, and naturally, her parents insisted on meeting the young man with whom their daughter was smitten. There were some obvious red flags to the parents, evident right away.
In an interview with The Tyler Morning Telegraph, Terry Caffey told reporters his first interaction with Charlie was shocking. He welcomed him to his home, extending his hand. “You must be Charlie,” he said, only to be met with a different response – “Yeah, and you are?” Wow. This guy sounds like the worst.
The Fight to Stay Alive
Terry Caffey said he almost preferred to die. He suffered from the attack and did not want to be without his family. He knew, though, that if he died, they might not be able to identify the killers. He recognized the faces and voices of the assailants and saw it as his duty to identify them.
Caffey heard everything that was happening in the house, from his sons being attacked to windows blowing out due to the fire. Authorities were able to use the information to identify those who brought death and destruction to his family and their home.
All Things Considered for Terry
The Tyler Morning Telegraph said it best: While the assailants are spending the rest of their lives behind bars, Terry Caffey serves a similar sentence in his mind. He spends every day of his life thinking about how his family was taken from him, how he should have been the one to die instead of them.
In an interview with Dr. Phil, he opened up about a struggle he had after their deaths. He considered taking his life on the very spot where his family had been killed, on the charred remains of his family’s former home. However, he received what he could only see as a sign.
The Missing Piece
As he stood on the ruins of his family’s home, gun in hand and ready to end it all, he saw something flapping in the wind out of the corner of his eye. This piece of paper was a ripped corner of a book his wife had read. He picked up the page and read the excerpt, automatically seeing it as a sign from God.
The excerpt was something so spot on that it was a bit creepy. The piece read, “I don’t know why you would take my family away and leave me to struggle without them.” This put a pit in his stomach, inspiring him to keep holding on because he felt he was supposed to find that missing piece.
The Letter to Her Father
While in jail for her disgusting crimes, Erin wrote her father a letter. It was in this letter that Erin finally took some responsibility for what happened. “None of this was your fault,” she wrote. “If anything, it was mine. I never wanted any of this to happen.”
Her letter continued with more admissions. “I was just going with what he was telling me. He was feeding me all these lies, I got caught up in him, and I feel so guilty.” Still, she pinned it on her boyfriend instead of owning up to what she did. “Even though this has happened, I still feel sad, but at the same time glad that I’m free from the pressure that was being put on me. I miss Mama and the boys! But I know where they are.” Right, you miss them – maybe you should have considered this before you arranged for them to be murdered, Erin!
The Dr. Phil Interview With Terry Caffey
Though Terry Caffey still seems to believe that his daughter was not the mastermind behind the horrendous acts, he spoke with Dr. Phil about the letter she wrote him. When discussing her half-admission of guilt, he told Dr. Phil that he just wanted to grab his daughter and shake her, asking her, “why?”
He said that he believed deep down that she did not want her parents to be killed. He discussed with the TV star that she did not have just a fit of adolescent rage – this was planned for weeks. If his father had not died the week before, the deed would have been done earlier. He admitted that she had many opportunities to say it was a bad idea, yet she continued. He said he wished she had just talked to them about the pressures she was dealing with – they may not have liked what they were hearing, but they would have listened.
Where Is Erin Caffey Now?
Erin took a plea deal and is serving two consecutive life sentences, plus an additional 25 years. She was charged with three counts of capital murder. Even behind bars, she still would not take the responsibility that she was supposed to. You’re already behind bars, girl. Just own up to it.
Her accomplices received similar sentences. Wilkinson and Waid were given life sentences without parole; they nearly received the death penalty, but Terry Caffey specifically asked to drop that as an option. Bobbi Johnson received 40 years for being involved without using a weapon.
Erin Met With Dr. Phil in Prison
When the teenage murderer met with the talk show host while in prison, she could barely make eye contact. When she was asked questions about specifics, she said she thought everything was OK for her to do because she “thought [she] was grown.” Take it from someone else trying to be a grown-up in this world – what she did is far from “grown.”
Dr. Phil reviewed forensic evidence with her, and she could barely look at him. She remained silent, claiming that she did not believe they were going to do it. She had the look of someone who refused to take responsibility for her actions when she was confronted with this on national television.