Just three days before Christmas, a 911 call was placed just after 8 p.m., bringing what would be, all told, almost 50 cops from four different agencies to the Old Route 209 residence of Anne Gaffney. Nearly four hours later, one of Gaffney’s own tenants — 34-year-old Shawn Tyler — was found after a foot search and charged with bludgeoning the 54-year-old woman to death in the wake of an apparent robbery gone very wrong in a house long suspected of harboring bad behavior.
State police Senior Investigator Pete Kusminsky on Tuesday broadly outlined the investigation. Kusminsky said police believe the motive for the killing was robbery; an undisclosed amount of cash, which police believe was Gaffney’s and Gaffney’s credit card were later found on the premises but not on Tyler’s person.
Kusminsky was tight-lipped about the details and refused to state whether or not the suspect had drugs on his person. But Kusminsky did say that the apparent robbery motive was not drug-related. “We knew he was on foot in the area and got a perimeter set up quickly,” said Kusminsky. “We knew he was there. Luckily we had a lot of people there very quickly.” Kusminsky said Tyler was found hiding under a camper trailer approximately three-quarters of a mile away from the scene of the crime. Tyler has no felonies in his background, and only one misdemeanor conviction for loitering, dating back to 1998, said Ulster County District Attorney Holley Carnright.
Kusminsky said there were no prior records of any calls to the house regarding disputes between Gaffney and Tyler, nor were there records of calls regarding just Tyler himself. He would not confirm how many incident calls had been received about the boarding house in general. Kusminsky refused to say how many people were in the house during the killing, though he did say that on the night of the killing, two 911 calls were placed by two different tenants in the house — the second having come in while the police were already being dispatched. Kusminsky said a total of four tenants were renting rooms from Gaffney at the time of the killing. Kusminsky would not confirm how many, if any, are convicted felons.
Kusminsky refused to disclose any details regarding the murder weapon and said that the preliminary results from Gaffney’s autopsy were on his desk. The final toxicology results on Gaffney are still pending, though Kusminsky stressed that since the killing was not suspected to be drug-related, there was no rush put on that report. As to Tyler’s own toxicology screen, Kusminsky once again refused comment.
Kossover recuses self
Gaffney is the younger sister of local attorney and former Ulster County assistant public defender Daniel Gaffney, who refused comment on his sister’s death. Ulster County Public Defender Andrew Kossover has recused himself from the case; he was out of town this week and unable to be reached for more details on why. Carnright said Albany attorney Michael Jurena has been assigned Tyler’s case and represented him in the preliminary hearing held Tuesday, Dec. 27 in Hurley Town Court. Tyler is being held without bail at the Ulster County Jail on a charge of first-degree murder; a grand jury is expected to be convened in early January. County Assistant District Attorney Kevin Harp handled the preliminary hearing for the prosecution, said Carnright. New York Penal Law states that a first-degree murder charge can be lodged if “the victim was killed while the defendant was in the course of committing or attempting to commit and in furtherance of robbery, burglary in the first degree or second degree.” If convicted, Tyler could face a life sentence without possibility of parole.
According to published reports, the house has come under fire by neighbors and town officials for allegedly housing violent sex criminals and for alleged building code violations. Town of Hurley Building Inspector Glenn Hoffstatter refused to comment this week on how many violations existed and whether they had been resolved.
Gaffney’s own past was not without trouble. According to published reports, Gaffney was charged in 2010 with welfare fraud and offering a false instrument for filing, both felonies.++