As South Carolina State Trooper Roy Caffey’s shift was nearing an end on the evening of October 8, 1972, he radioed dispatch, saying he would meet his relief at the Interstate 26 interchange, just north of Orangeburg. Approximately one minute later, he again contacted dispatch, saying he was pulling over a red Mustang. About 10 minutes later, another call came from Trooper Caffey’s car to dispatch. But this call was from another trooper saying the two words every lawman fears hearing: “Officer Down.”
A fellow patrolman found Trooper Caffey lying in a pool of blood, shot to death near his patrol car. His gun and holster were missing, and it appeared a struggle had occurred in the vehicle. Witnesses remembered seeing Trooper Caffey pull the Mustang over, and later motorists saw him talking to two men.
A quarter of a century passed before an arrest was made in the murder of Trooper Roy Caffey.
In 1997, 25 years after the murder of Patrolman Roy Caffey, Betsy Kemmerlin was charged in connection with the crime. Officials say her bragging to friends about her role in the incident and getting away with it for so long led to her arrest.
Kemmerlin, 15-years-old at the time of the incident, identified her brother, Ben Kemmerlin, and their friend, Lee Mizzell, as the two men seen arguing with Trooper Caffey on the evening of October 8, 1972. Betsy Kemmerlin claimed Mizzell threatened to kill her if she fingered them.
Both Ben Kemmerlin and Lee Mizzell had since died.
Kemmerlin said Trooper Caffey saw drugs in the car after he pulled itover for a traffic violation. As he attempted to confiscate them, the two armed men fought with him outside the car. One of them shot Trooper Caffey during the struggle. Kemmerlin, who claimed to have stayed in the car during the altercation, said she could not tell which man had fired the fatal shot and also claimed she knew nothing about who owned the Mustang or what happened to it after the murder. It has never been found.
Police believe Ben Kemmerlin and Lee Mizzell borrowed the car from a woman for a drug purchase. The men also had access to heavy machinery, and police believe they likely used it to destroy the vehicle. Trooper Caffey’s gun and holster have also never been found; police believe they were either buried or thrown into a pond.
In February of 1999, Kemmerlin pled guilty to murder as an accessory after the fact. She was given a ten-year suspended sentence and was placed on probation for five years. After violating her probation by failing a drug test in 2000, she was sentenced to one year in prison. She was released in December of 2001. Betsy Kemmerlin died in 2009 at age 52.
In 2014, the Orangeburg County, South Carolina rest areas located at mile marker 150 on Interstate 26 East, and near mile marker 152 on Interstate 26 West were named the “SCHP Patrolman First Class Roy O. Caffey Memorial Rest Stop.”
• Herald-Journal (Orangeburg, South Carolina)
• Index-Journal (Greenville, South Carolina)
• Seattle Times
• Tulsa World
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Ian Granstra is a writer and a native Iowan now living in Arkansas.Growing up, he enjoyed watching real-life crime shows and further researching the stories featured. He wrote about many of them on his personal Facebook page, and several people suggested he should start a group featuring his writings. Ian founded the Facebook group “Murders, Missing People and More Mysteries” in August of 2018 he writes about many cold cases. The group also features many current criminal cases in the news. When Ian isn’t writing, he enjoys exercising, traveling and collecting sports cards. He’s also a big animal lover (his Facebook nickname is “beagle lover.”)
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