A horrific murder of a 54-year-old woman made headlines in Ulster County and across the state last week. On December 21, Ann Gaffney was found beaten to death in her home on Old Route 209 in the Town of Hurley.
According to a press release from the New York State Police, Gaffney was killed during a robbery, and the suspect fled on foot.
Hours later, one of Gaffney's tenants, 34-year-old Shawn E. Tyler, was found hiding on a neighboring property and was arrested as a suspect.
Daily Freeman reporter Ariel Zangla attended a preliminary hearing in the murder case against Tyler yesterday, Tuesday, December 27. According to Zangla's story, a state police investigator testified in court that Tyler had admitted to hitting Gaffney with a hammer 15 times in the process of stealing her cash and a credit card.
Gaffney's killing is the first homicide in Ulster County this year. But it's the second killing this year in the region with a hammer as the alleged murder weapon; Deposit resident Andrew Hafele currently stands accused of killing 20-year-old Michael Mills with a hammer during a fight on September 17.
The Daily Freeman has led the reporting on the story from the beginning. The newspaper's managing editor, Tony Adamis, wrote the preliminary report of Gaffney's death himself. Adamis caught a load of flack from readers in the comments section of the newspaper for his reporting, which included some background information about Gaffney's own run-ins with the law in recent years.
Many readers felt that information about Gaffney's past had no place in the story about her tragic death. The criticism was heated enough that Adamis wrote a separate blog post explaining the reasons for his reporting:
- A 54-year-old woman was murdered in the community by a suspect who was described by police simply as “a tenant.” On first blush, it seemed like a random, tragic act. Certainly, that’s the way it seemed to me as I read the state police release.
- But a check of the Freeman archives revealed that the victim for at least five years had been running afoul of the law. Recently she was picked up on a bench warrant for failing to appear in court to answer a charge of welfare fraud. In 2006, she was accused of running an illegal boarding house, whose tenants included at least one violent sex offender, according to town authorities.
- Again, these matters don’t make Ms. Gaffney responsible for the crime, but they do suggest her life was untidy in ways that may have put her in harm’s way. That’s important because the crime alleged appears less random, though not necessarily any less tragic. It also suggests her boarding operation not only put herself in danger, but also the community around her. That’s the rationale in its entirety.
For Freeman readers, Adamis's blog post is a rare glimpse into the reasoning behind the choices reporters make when they bring you the news. Kudos to Adamis for his transparency.
Here's the initial press release from the New York State Police about Tyler's arrest:
The New York State Police at SP Kingston announce the arrest of SHAWN E. TYLER for Murder 1st Degree.
On December 21, 2011, at approximately 8:06 PM, the Ulster County 911 Center received a 911 call reporting a possible homicide at 369 Old Route 209 in the Town of Hurley. New York State Police Members responded to the location and discovered Anne Gaffney, age 54, deceased inside of her residence.
As information was developed, it was learned that the perpetrator had fled the scene on foot and a perimeter was established and a search of the area was commenced. Approximately three and a half hours later, the perpetrator, Shawn E Tyler, age 34, was found hiding on a neighboring property.
Further investigation revealed that Gaffney had been killed during the course of a robbery. Tyler, who was a tenant of the victim, was subsequently charged with Murder in the First Degree. Tyler was processed at SP Kingston, and arraigned in the Town of Hurley Court where he was remanded to the Ulster County Jail without bail.
State Police were assisted by the Ulster County Sheriff's Department, City of Kingston Police and the Town of Ulster Police.