Small S.C. Town Living in Fear Again

"Gaffney Strangler" murdered four girls in the '60s, now another killer is back.

July 5, 2009, 4:49 PM

GAFFNEY, S.C., July 5, 2009 — -- The newspaper headline screams "TERRORIZED!" and that one word says it all. This small South Carolina town is living in fear after five people were murdered in five days. Investigators believe they are looking for a serial murderer.

As John and Brantlee Morgan left church this morning, they kept a watchful eye on their three young children.

"It's just the whole county is on alert," said Brantlee Morgan as her eyes darted about.

"I'm kind of scared," interjected her elementary school-aged daughter Mary, who confessed she didn't really know what was happening in her hometown, only that people had been killed.

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The shootings took place within roughly 10 miles of each other in Cherokee County, a rural community of 54,000 set amid peach orchards and farms about 50 miles west of Charlotte, N.C.

For Brantlee Morgan, like so many here, the murders are deeply personal. She knew all five victims.

"I've grown up in this community, and it's just been really hard to accept," she said.

The murders began June 27, when 63-year-old peach farmer Kline Cash was shot in his home on the outskirts of town. Then on Wednesday, 50-year-old Gena Linder Parker and her elderly mother, Hazel Linder, 83, were found bound and shot in a home a just a few miles away.

On Thursday, a 48-year-old businessman was in his home improvement store with his daughter when they were both shot. Stephen Tyler died at the scene, and his daughter, Abby, 15, died in the hospital Saturday.

Funeral services for the two women shot Wednesday were held this afternoon.

Investigators are circulating a composite drawing of the man they are looking for. He is believed to be in his 40s, heavyset, with salt and pepper hair. They are also looking for a 1991-1994 Ford Explorer that is either champagne color or gray.

"There's no evidence that he knows the victims. There's no evidence that the victims are connected," said Cherokee County Sheriff Bill Blanton.

Today hundreds of sheriff's deputies from the area and investigators from state and federal agencies are now in Gaffney in a race to catch the killer before he strikes again.

Renowned FBI profiler and hostage negotiator Brad Garrett, now an ABC News consultant, said in these types of cases it is important not to rule out anything.

"The pitfall in any of these cases," Garrett told ABC News, "is trying to logically figure out why he might be doing this. You know, is he driven by some delusion? Is he driven by anger? Did these people upset him 30 years ago and he's decided to pay them back now? You just don't know that. Hopefully as law enforcement looks at each of these cases, and they look for some sort of link, they might be able to fill in the gap of that."

For those old enough to remember, these events are stirring up painful memories. In the 1960s, the so-called "Gaffney Strangler" murdered four girls before he was apprehended. Leroy Martin was sent to prison for life; he was killed in prison in 1972.

While police hunt for a suspect in these murders, Gaffney is on edge. The streets are quiet, few venture out. People are sleeping with lights on in their homes and guns at their side.

"We're keeping doors locked at night," said Gaffney resident Robert Irvin. "We've got guns pretty much everywhere. I've got a gun in the truck and I'm carrying a gun right now."

He slipped his hand into his pants pocket and pulls out a small pistol.

"I'm going to be ready," said Irvin. "You have no idea, you've got to be ahead of this man."

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