State Sen. Don Thomas of Dalton said this morning he believed that Bruce Schafer had been ill
Couple’s daughter, who lives in the same gated community as the Schaefers, had no knowledge of any serious illness affecting her 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.
Staff writer Ashley Fielding and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
[not verified, but I do believe Sen. Nancy Schaefer was 73, her husband 75, and they had 16 grandchildren]