Police link seventh death to sniper spree

MANASSAS, Va. -- The death toll from the Washington-area sniper rose to seven Thursday as authorities said ballistics evidence linked the killer to the slaying of a man gunned down at a Virginia gas station.

Dean Meyers, 53, of Gaithersburg, Md., was felled by a single shot Wednesday night, moments after filling his car's tank, the latest victim to die since the attacks began Oct. 2. Two people have also been wounded.

Prince William County police chief Charlie Deane said the results of an autopsy on Meyers and ballistic evidence "has linked these cases."

Deane also pleaded for the killer to give up: "There's enough damage been done."

Police had said they were searching for a white minivan seen leaving the gas station, but Deane downplayed the lead and said the occupants had a "reasonable" explanation of their actions. He refused to say whether there were surveillance cameras at the gas station but said some cameras were in the area.

Manassas is about 35 miles southwest of the Maryland suburbs where most of the attacks happened. The attack is the second in Virginia: A woman was wounded by the sniper Oct. 4 in Fredericksburg, 30 miles south of here.

In a drizzling rain, police in yellow slickers walked shoulder to shoulder near the crime scene, looking for evidence. Deane did not say whether they had found anything. But he said there had been no communication from the killer.

A tarot death card with the taunting words "Dear policeman, I am God" was found near a shell casing outside a school in Bowie, Md., where a 13-year-old boy was critically wounded by the sniper Monday.

Investigators say the sniper, or snipers, fired from a distance with a high-powered hunting or military-style rifle. Like Meyers, all the victims were felled by a single bullet.

Death penalty planning

At a news conference, Commonwealth's Attorney Paul Ebert indicated he would seek the death penalty against the killer. He said a new Virginia law allows the death penalty in murders "in which the perpetrator tends to terrorize the general public."

"If I have anything to do with it, we will prosecute in this jurisdiction, and do it to the full extent of the law," said Ebert, whose office has sent more people to death row than any other in Virginia.

Neighbors said Meyers lived alone in a two-story brick unit in a townhouse complex in Gaithersburg. They said he worked in Virginia, though they did not know where.

Carol Iverson, 79, lived next door to Meyers for 15 years in Gaithersburg before she moved away. The former neighbors stayed close, with Meyers coming last week to Iverson's home for dinner.

"He was perfectly delightful," she said, her voice breaking. "I can't say enough good things about him. He always had a kind word. He always had time to stop and talk."

Barbara Stewart said Meyers often offered assistance to her husband, who has Parkinson's disease. Clara Johnson recalled that Meyers looked out for cats in the community.

"He would just take all the stray cats he could find and take them in his house and feed them," she said.

Johnson said whoever killed Meyers is "a person that has no heart, no love, no concern -- but most of all, no love in his heart."