'A direction to go in' — Ballistic tests
link three W.
By Debbie Howlett, USA TODAY
CAMPBELLS CREEK, W.Va — Police said investigators now
"have a direction to go" after linking three fatal
shootings to the same .22-caliber rifle Thursday.
But for residents of this mountain
hollow, where two of their own were gunned down Aug. 14, the
news wasn't the least bit reassuring.
To them, it meant their worst fears
might prove true: A serial sniper might be on the loose.
"I ain't about to go out after dark,"
Peggy Benton said Thursday over a grilled cheese sandwich at
the Dairy Bar. "I don't know what's going on and what's not
going on. It don't matter. It's scary either way."
The three victims were shot dead in
separate attacks at night outside convenience stores on the
outskirts of Charleston.
Gary Carrier Jr., 44, of South
Charleston was killed Aug. 10 while making a phone call.
Four days later, Jeanie Patton, 31,
and Okey Meadows Jr., 26, both of Campbells Creek, were
killed within 90 minutes of each other at convenience stores
about 10 miles apart.
The string of killings bears a
resemblance to the sniper attacks that terrorized the
Washington, D.C., area last fall. Two suspects were arrested
in that three-week killing spree. They have been linked to
23 shootings that killed 15 people in seven states and the
District of Columbia. They remain in custody in Virginia,
The three victims here were shot in
the head or neck from distances of 30 to 70 yards,
authorities said. Police were investigating another shooting
that was reported Wednesday night at a convenience store. No
one was hit in that incident, and neither a bullet nor a
spent casing had been recovered.
Investigators continue to consult
with members of the task force that worked on the Washington
sniper case. But they have hinted strongly that the Aug. 14
killings might have been drug-related.
A composite sketch was released of a
man with dark hair — short in front, longer in back — long
sideburns and a goatee.
That hasn't eased the worries of
residents of Campbells Creek, a quiet, unincorporated
community where churches outnumber bars six to one.
Killings are almost unheard of around
here. And in the nearest large city, Charleston, only 10
people were murdered all of last year.
Now, five police cars patrol
Campbells Creek, three more than usual. Officers on mountain
bikes conducted a door-to-door canvass, as much to look for
people who might have seen something as to reassure those
"You'd be crazy not to be afraid,"
said Russell Woods, 63, a retiree sitting in the shade on
the deck of his mobile home. Like his neighbors, Woods said
he won't rest easier until the killer or killers are caught.
He said he worries that police have
only the sketchiest information. They're looking for a white
man with a beard in a dark Ford F-150 pickup. "That's a lot
of folks around here," Woods said..
In fact, more than 2,600 Ford F-150s
were sold in the state last year, according to the West
Virginia Automotive and Truck Dealers Association. The model
is also the second-most-stolen vehicle in West Virginia,
behind the Chevrolet Cavalier, according to the National
Insurance Crime Bureau.
While the investigation continues, a
memorial remains at the Speedway gas station here. That's
where Patton, a school cafeteria worker, died. A bundle of
silk flowers, her funeral card and a cardboard sign that
reads "RIP God Bless" mark the spot.
"This has lost us some of our sense
of peace," Bill Moles Jr. said as he sat outside the FasChek
"It doesn't really matter why it
happened. Senseless violence is senseless violence."
Contributing: Wire reports