Investigators who worked on D.C.-area sniper case helping W.Va.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Investigators who worked on last year's Washington sniper shootings have joined the probe into three fatal shootings in the Charleston area, authorities said Monday.

"We have the agents that worked that particular case," Kanawha County Sheriff Dave Tucker said at a Monday afternoon briefing. "They're on board with us and giving us some good advice, which we're following." Tucker said the investigators have "supplied us with vital information. They have been on the front line with that case."

Two residents from Campbells Creek, an unincorporated valley community near Charleston, were killed Thursday -- one in the town itself -- and police said their deaths, along with a killing earlier last week in Charleston, could be the work of a single shooter.

Over the weekend, police stepped up their patrols and conducted door-to-door interviews in Campbells Creek, hoping to calm fearful residents.

As night fell Sunday, five patrol cars patrolled the area -- usually a job undertaken by two units.

"It has a calming effect on the public," chief deputy Phil Morris said.

All three killings had been after dark near gas stations or convenience stores. Morris recommended that residents do their shopping during the day and not go to gas stations at night alone.

Police stopped black trucks with tinted windows and extended cabs; witnesses described seeing such a vehicle at the shootings. Authorities also were scrutinizing video from surveillance cameras.

"There is no suspect at this point," Morris said Sunday.

Pat O'Connor said the increased patrols made him think that investigators believe the shooter lives in the Campbells Creek neighborhood. "It makes you leery of being outside," O'Connor said.

O'Connor said his family had gathered Sunday night to prepare for the funeral of his newborn daughter, Katie, who died Thursday, the same night Jeanie Patton, 31, and Okey Meadows Jr., 26, both of Campbells Creek, were slain.

Already fearful for his family in the area, O'Connor said he now must warn other relatives traveling from as far away as Florida for the funeral.

"I told them to make sure to gas up before they get here. And when they do to make sure they don't see a black truck in the parking lot," O'Connor said.

The first victim was Gary Carrier Jr., 44, of South Charleston, who was shot in the head Aug. 10 while using a pay telephone outside a gas station on Charleston's west side.

The shootings were an immediate reminder of the sniper attacks last fall in Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana. Two men were arrested and accused of shooting 19 people, killing 13 and wounding six.

Morris has given out his private office number in hopes that more witnesses -- or even the shooter -- will come forward. He said the only physical description authorities have in the case is of a large, white male seen at one shooting.

"It's not the best ID in the world, but its the best we have," said Morris.

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