A non-profit mental health agency will present a free workshop in Gaffney today(2pm) after a serial killer terrorized the area for more a week. The Spartanburg-based PACE Center offers free counseling to victims of violent crime and their families through the South Carolina Department of Public Safety. Today’s workshop focusing on stress and anxiety will be held at the Gaffney Campus of the Spartanburg Community College. It will be led by nationally recognized counselor, Dr. Roger Rhoades, an employee of PACE Center who has been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Montell Williams, Rickki Lake, Jenny Jones, Sally Jessie Raphael and other programs.
Dr. Rhoades says residents of Cherokee County really suffered, fearing for their lives and those of their families every day, and many people will benefit from some help related to that stress. “There has just been incredible tension there, in part because of the serial killings that occured in Gaffney in the mid-1960’s, which layered on the recent murders and made a lot of that anxiety reappear.”
Rhoades compared the murders to the emotions and media blitz surrounding the Susan Smith case 14 years before, which coincidentally happened just 20 miles away in Union. In that case, the disappearance of the Smith children created high anxiety, which was amplified by the attention of media from around the globe.
Rhoades says when he was in Gaffney before the suspect was shot and killed, he saw signs of widespread stress. “They weren’t eating well, sleeping well, had become hyper-vigilant, and their whole routine had been disrupted, based on the idea that they didn’t who this murderer was. And they were looking for motive. What would make a person come into their town and kill five people?”
Rhoades says certainly members of the community were relieved when a suspect was killed, but he says some damage was already done. “Once you ball up that emotionally, you don’t uncoil so easily. It affects your core, your sense of security, your ability to say ‘things are going to make sense.’ ”
Rhoades says unless that energy is channeled in a positive way, it can negativelty affect daily lives.
Dr. Rhoades says the killings undermined a sense of safety. “Two of the people killed in Gaffney were just down the street from the police department. It’s not like those two shooting happened in the back woods. He walked in during the daylight hours and two people were shot, who the police knew. The thought of that really increases your sense of helplessness.”
48-year-old Stephen Tyler was killed at his family-run furniture-appliance business. When his 15-year-old daughter Abbey went to check on him, she was shot in the head and died in the hospital two days later.