State Rep. Rick Austin (R-Demorest) confirmed from the well at the General Assembly at about 7:30 p.m. that Schaefer and her husband are dead but did not offer any details.
Asked about the possibility of murder-suicide, GBI spokesperson John Bankhead said “that was the preliminary report.”
“All we can confirm now is that they were found dead in their residence,” he said.
Investigators from the GBI and Habersham County Sheriff’s Office were on the scene late Friday. Bankhead said the deaths would be confirmed through crime scene processing tonight and autopsies.
The Habersham sheriff was expected to make a statement Saturday morning, Bankhead said. The Schaefers lived in a gated community in Habersham County.
A Republican, Schaefer served two terms in the Georgia Senate representing District 50. She won election in 2004 and lost her seat in 2008.
In 2005, she struck out at gay families in a column in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“To ban children being adopted by same-sex couples is solid policy,” Schaefer stated in the column, although an expected legislative fight to ban gay parenting never materialized.
Schaefer also sponsored legislation to require parental notification for students to join school clubs. The measure was introduced in the wake of controversy over a Gay-Straight Alliance at White County High School that led to a federal lawsuit. The bill was widely viewed as an attempt to limit the gay clubs.
Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates), Georgia’s first openly gay state lawmaker, served in the General Assembly with Schaefer and remembered her as a fierce critic of gay issues.
“Nancy Schaefer was our staunchest opponent,” Drenner said in an interview at the Gold Dome. “She was against us on every single issue out there, from gay-straight alliances in schools to same-sex marriage to same-sex adoption. I think she was probably opposed to the fact that we could even breathe air.”
Drenner said the two lawmakers occasionally crossed paths, but never exchanged words.
“I was in meetings where she was and she walked the other way when I walked in the room. Same way with being in the elevator, if I was in the elevator and she saw me she would never get in,” Drenner said. “I must have made her a little uncomfortable.”
Schaefer’s work against lesbian and gay issues began well before her legislative career. Schaefer founded Family Concerns, an arch-conservative lobbying group, in the late 1980s. She was also a leader in the Southern Baptist Convention, and for years was considered a prime opponent of Atlanta gay rights activists.
Before winning a seat in the Georgia Senate, she ran failed campaigns for Atlanta mayor, lieutenant governor and governor.
Matt Schafer, Dyana Bagby and Laura Douglas-Brown contributed.