Michigan State Police announce task force to investigate Osceola County cold case

OSCEOLA COUNTY — Police are seeking the public’s assistance by asking for tips in hopes of solving an Osceola County homicide that took place more than 10 years ago.

On Monday, Michigan State Police announced a task force of investigators, in conjunction with Osceola County Prosecutor Tyler Thompson, is focusing on the 2004 homicide of Tustin resident Esther Gaffney.

Gaffney, who was 80 years old at the time of her death, lived alone at her residence on Tustin Road, north of the Village of Tustin. On July 12, 2004, Gaffney was found deceased inside her home. An autopsy later concluded Gaffney’s death was a homicide.

For the past 12 years, detectives have continued to investigate the case, following up on numerous tips.

“Task force members are confident that advances in forensic science and information technology will generate new leads and aid investigators in bringing this case to a successful conclusion,” stated a release from the Michigan State Police.

Detective Sgt. John Forner of the Michigan State Police 6th District Headquarters is one of four MSP detectives working full-time on the task force to investigate the Gaffney case. 

“We want the public to know we are putting a lot of time and resources into this case and want to keep stirring interest to get more leads,” Forner said.

According to a 2004 article in the Pioneer, Gaffney’s death was the result of a gunshot. A fire was set in an attempt to cover the crime. However, the fire burned itself out and did not burn the body.

At the time of her death, Gaffney’s home was in the process of being sold and contents of the house were either packed up for moving or being prepared for an auction. During the initial investigation, police were attempting to figure out if items had been taken from the residence.

A reward of $5,000 was offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for Gaffney’s death, according to the 2004 article. The recent news release did not state if that reward is still being offered.

Investigators are hopeful witnesses and people with information pertaining to the case will choose to come forward. Forner said the task force is confident someone in the community or surrounding area has information. 

“There are different reasons people who have information may not come forward,” Forner said. “We hope with the passage of time, someone will be willing to talk with us. Also, sometimes people don’t realize the little tidbits they know or things they feel are insignificant actually turn out to be significant to the case.” 

Detectives are asking anyone with information regarding Gaffney’s homicide to contact the cold case tip line of the Michigan State Police Mt. Pleasant Post at (989) 775-9302.