Report of Georgia Senator Nancy Schaefer on Corruption in Child Protective Services.
Autopsies being performed on Schaefer, husband
Couple’s daughter had no knowledge of serious illness affecting father
By Mitch Clarke and Stephen Gurr
UPDATED March 27, 2010 11:42 a.m.
Autopsies are being performed today on the bodies of former state Sen. Nancy Schaefer and her husband, who were found shot to death Friday afternoon in an apparent murder-suicide at their Habersham County home.
Sheriff Joey Terrell said this morning that authorities believe they know who the shooter was, but wanted to wait until the autopsies are completed before releasing that information.
Terrell said the couple’s daughter, who lives in the same gated community as the Schaefers, discovered their bodies in a bedroom about 5:30 p.m. Friday. He said a handgun was used in the shootings and was found near the bodies.
Several notes were left behind, but Terrell declined to say who wrote them.
While State Sen. Don Thomas of Dalton said this morning he believed that Bruce Schafer had been ill, the sheriff said the couple’s daughter had no knowledge of any serious illness affecting him.
A prominent conservative Republican, Schaefer, 75, was known as a vocal opponent of abortion and same-sex marriage. She was elected to the state Senate in 2004 and served two terms, but she made several unsuccessful bids for public office prior to that.
State Rep. Rick Austin, whose district includes Habersham County, announced Schaefer’s death to a packed House chamber around 7:30 p.m. Friday and led lawmakers in a moment of silence.
Hall County legislators who had worked with Schaefer said they were saddened by the news.
“I had the privilege of serving with Nancy for several years in the State Senate and appreciated her kind heart and desire to serve the people of Georgia well,” said Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle. “Nita and I will be praying for the entire Shaefer family and ask that the Lord will provide them with peace that passes all understanding during this difficult time.”
“The state of Georgia has lost two fine God-fearing people,” said state Rep. James Mills, R-Chestnut Mountain. “We should all pray for the family.”
Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, said he served with Schaefer in his first term in the House. Because they served in adjoining districts, they often attended meetings together on White County issues, he said.
Collins said Schaefer served her district honorably.
“I always thought her to be an honest person who did what she thought was right,” Collins said. “It’s just a real sad event.”
Schaefer, who has been active in conservative Christian causes for many years, was president of Family Concerns, a Christian organization.
She was elected in 2004 after federally redrawn legislative districts created an open seat in the 50th District. She defeated two Republican challengers and a Democrat to win the seat.
Prior to that, Schaefer ran for mayor of Atlanta in 1993, was the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor in 1994 and finished third in the GOP race for governor in 1998.
Before seeking re-election in 2008, she considered a challenge to Brown for the congressional seat. She later chose to run for re-election, but lost in the Republican primary to eventual winner Jim Butterworth.
She once hosted a daily commentary show on WNIV-AM, an Atlanta Christian radio station, according to her state Senate biography.
She was a former first vice president of the Georgia Baptist Convention, a frequent speaker to churches of all denominations, a speaker to civic and political organizations and a frequent guest on radio and local and national television programs.
In 2001, she became the first female trustee of Toccoa Falls College.
She and her husband lived in Atlanta for 35 years before relocating to Habersham County.
The 50th District, which she served, includes Habersham, Rabun, Towns, Stephens, Banks, Franklin, Hart and a portion of White counties.
Shaefer and her husband had five children and 13 grandchildren.
Murder-suicide possible cause of deaths of former state Sen. Schaefer and husband
By Mashaun D. Simon and Aaron Gould Sheinin
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Conservative political activist and former state Sen. Nancy Schaefer and her husband Bruce have died of an apparent murder-suicide.
Few details were available Saturday, the day after the couple’s bodies were found. It could be weeks before autopsy results are available, Habersham county Coroner Kasey McEntire told the AJC Saturday.
Meanwhile, tributes and condolences continued to pour in from lawmakers and others.
“I had the privilege of serving with Nancy for several years in the State Senate and appreciated her kind heart and desire to serve the people of Georgia well. Nita and I will be praying for the entire Schaefer family and ask that the Lord will provide them with peace that passes all understanding during this difficult time,” Lt. Governor Casey Cagle said in a statement.
GBI spokesman John Bankhead told the AJC there will be a thorough investigation into what happened. He could not say who might have been the shooter. Six GBI agents and two crime scene technicians were at the scene of the Schaefer home in Habersham County Friday night.
An announcement was made around 7:30 p.m. Friday on the floor of the Georgia General Assembly.
Sen. Don Thomas, a physician and who said he knew the couple well, said he believed Bruce Schaefer, 74, had cancer.
“In those moments, you are not at your complete sanity,” said Thomas, of Dalton. “Some people figure the best way is to end it for both of you. They were married for so long. Loved each other so much. When you see somebody that you love so much, every now and then, you think the best way out of it is to go and be with the Lord. ”
Schaefer, a former Atlanta mayoral candidate and two-term senator, was beaten by Habersham County Commission Chairman Jim Butterworth in a north Georgia Republican runoff in 2008.
“This news hits the hearts of many in our community and I want to be among the first to express my deepest condolences to the family of Nancy and Bruce Schaefer. The Schaefer’s were a blessing to many who were privileged to know them,” Butterworth said in a statement.
Rep. Rick Austin made the announcement from the house floor of the couple’s death before the chamber observed a moment of silence. Austin represents Habersham and White counties, near Schaefer’s home.
“Nancy Schaefer was a great lady, and she served Georgia and her constituents with honor and grace,” Austin said.
Neill Herring, a veteran environmental lobbyist, said Schaefer came to symbolize “a period in Georgia history where the Christian right was really in the ascendancy. I almost feel like her defeat in the last election was a sign that that power had began to wane.”
Schaefer and her husband were the parents of five children and moved to Habersham County in North Georgia after living in Atlanta for 35 years. The daughter of a North Georgia Superior Court Judge and granddaughter of a state legislator, Schaefer, 73, entered the public eye in 1985 when she organized a Constitutional Liberties Rally in Atlanta.
The following year, she founded Schaefer Family Concerns, Inc., a nonprofit foundation dedicated to issues such as display of the Ten Commandments in public buildings and opposition to abortion.
She was the Republican nominee for Lt. Governor in 1994. In 1998, she sought the GOP nomination for governor.
According to her state senate biography, she was an eight year Trustee of the National Ethics and Religions Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). She represented Family Concerns and the SBC at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995, the U.N. Conference on Human Settlements in Istanbul, the U.N. Conference on Food in Rome, Italy and the U.N. follow up Conference to Beijing in New York.
She is a former First Vice President of the Georgia Baptist Convention, a frequent speaker to churches of all denominations, a speaker to civic and political organizations, and a frequent guest on radio and local and national television programs across the nation. She was also a Sunday School Teacher.
Nancy Schaefer was chosen as a Gracious Lady of Georgia, served on numerous advisory boards and directorships and in 2001 became the first woman Trustee for Toccoa Falls College in Toccoa, Georgia.
As a state senator, Schaefer represented the 50th district, including Banks, Franklin, Habersham, Hart, Rabun, Stephens, and Towns Counties, as well as part of White County.
– Staff writers Ernie Suggs, Nancy Badertscher and Alexis Stevens contributed to this report