On March 1, 2008, most of the deeply religious Caffey family, of Emory, Texas, was slaughtered in the dead of night with .22 caliber bullets and swords before their humble, cabin-style home was burned to the ground.
The patriarch, Terry Caffey, lived to tell what he heard that night, and the perpetrators shocked even seasoned investigators, according to “Killer Couples” on Oxygen.
The Caffeys — Terry and his wife, Penny, their two young sons, Tyler and Matthew, and 16-year-old Erin — lived to serve in their church. All of them played instruments, and Erin used to sing so passionately during services that she would sometimes break down in tears, according to Texas Monthly.
The kids were homeschooled, Terry was training to be a minister, and a Bible verse was etched into a wooden sign hanging above their driveway. However, in fall 2008, Erin found something that began to draw her interest away from godly things: She fell in love with 18-year-old Charlie Wilkinson.
Wilkinson was a somewhat rough-and-tumble, outdoors type, and when he first ran into Erin at her part-time job serving at Sonic, roller skates and all, sparks flew. In December that year, Erin asked her parents to return to public school and, after they agreed, she and Wilkinson became inseparable, according to Texas Monthly.
Wilkinson gave her a promise ring that belonged to his grandmother and told his friends they would marry, according to “Killer Couples.” Terry and Penny were fine with the relationship until Erin's grades started to slip and they took a closer look at Wilkinson, not liking what they found on his Myspace page. Then, Erin broke her “phone curfew” and in February 2008, they put their foot down and told Erin that she needed to break up with Wilkinson.
Erin’s parents believed she appeared to have accepted their decision. Wilkinson, however, was openly heartbroken and angry, according to “Killer Couples.” And friends of Erin told Texas Monthly that the same month, Erin started talking about killing her parents. It was the only way they could be together, she seemed to believe.
Although accounts still differ on who was the mastermind — Terry refuses to believe it was his daughter's idea — a hideous plot was soon hatched.
Sometime late in the night of Feb. 28, 2008, or early on March 1, Wilkinson and his friend, 22-year-old Charles Waid, stormed into the Caffey home while Erin and Waid's girlfriend, Bobbi Johnson, waited outside in the car.
Wilkinson would later tell investigators that he warned Erin that he would have to kill her younger brothers in order to leave no witnesses.
“I don't care… just do what you gotta do,” she allegedly said, according to “Killer Couples.”
Inside, Wilkinson fired away with a .22 pistol in Terry and Penny's room. Terry took five bullets and watched his wife die. When the gun jammed, Waid broke out a samurai-style sword and finished Penny off with it, nearly severing her head, according to Texas Monthly.
The two then went upstairs and murdered young Tyler and Matthew. One was shot in the face and the second was killed with a sword, according to Texas Monthly.
Wilkinson and Waid then ransacked the house for valuables — Wilkinson had allegedly promised Waid $2,000 that was stashed away — and set fire to the place with lighter fluid.
As his home burned around him, Terry awoke and made the unimaginable decision to crawl out a window for help. There was nothing he could do for his family at that point. He made an hour-long crawl to his nearest neighbor’s home to call for help and soon authorities were on their way.
After emergency surgery, Terry was stable enough to talk, and he told sheriff's deputies that he was certain one of the attackers was Wilkinson. He recognized his voice, according to “Killer Couples.”
When authorities tracked down Wilkinson and brought him in for questioning, they also found Erin in the trailer where he was staying. She appeared to be in shock and claimed she had been kidnapped. Investigators were putting the case together quickly, however. Everyone knew everyone in Emory, so Waid and Johnson were also rounded up almost immediately.
Erin's story fell apart while she was on her way to see her dad in a hospital in nearby Tyler, along with her grandparents and sheriff's deputies. They received a call en route that Erin was now a suspect and cuffed her. Erin broke down in tears and assured her grandparents that she had nothing to do with the slaughter of her family, according to Texas Monthly.
Less than 24 hours after authorities responded, the Caffey home was a smoldering pile and all four suspects were in custody and talking.
Wilkinson told investigators that he had initially encouraged Erin to run away from home, but she told him, “No … I want my mom and dad killed,” according to police interview audio featured on “Killer Couples.”
All four were charged with three counts of capital murder, and prosecutors initially sought the death penalty against Wilkinson and Waid. Terry stepped in, however, still believing in the forgiveness his faith taught him, and asked prosecutors to take the death penalty off the table, according to “Killer Couples.”
All four eventually pleaded guilty. Wilkinson and Waid were given life without the possibility of parole; Johnson got 40 years. Erin was not sentenced to life without parole; she will be eligible after 25 years of her life sentence, according to “Killer Couples.”
Terry maintained a relationship with his daughter for years after the massacre. It wasn’t easy at first — in fact, he contemplated suicide briefly, according to Texas Monthly. However, he still visits Erin in prison in Greenville, according to ABC News.
For more on the Caffey family slaughter, including Terry’s terrifying ordeal and the twisted relationship between Erin and Wilkinson, watch “Killer Couples” at Oxygen.com and airing Thursdays at 8/7c.
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