2 W.Va. Shootings Linked to Same Weapon

 Ballistic tests have shown that the same weapon was used to kill two residents here, police told a newspaper, as fears grew that three recent shootings are the work of a single sniper.

Both Jeanie Patton, 31, and Okey Meadows Jr., 26, were killed by the same weapon, Phil Morris, chief of Kanawha County Sheriff's Department, told the Charleston Gazette for Wednesday's editions. Tests on the third victim were incomplete.

The type of weapon used and its caliber were not released. A call late Tuesday to Morris was not returned.

Officials have suggested that three shooting deaths in four days could be the work of a sniper picking his victims at random, a series of killings that echoed those in the Washington, D.C.-area last fall.

As federal and state authorities sift through clues, they are getting an earful of advice - from residents themselves. BEGIN POSITION 3 END POSITION 3

Residents say it's possible that the sale and use of methamphetamines in this unincorporated area may have some link. Two of the victims lived here, and it was the site of one of the shootings.

"A number of people we have talked with are trying to tie this to drugs," Morris said.

Before the tests were revealed, the notion that someone has been shooting people at random up and down the Kanawha Valley didn't sound very plausible to David Roy, of nearby Point Lick Hollow.

"We always thought those shootings were drug related, and the police should know it too," Roy said. "Pills and meth and the hard stuff has swept through here just over the last couple of years."

For the most part, however, Campbells Creek is a quiet, well-kept, rural community about 10 miles east of the state capital where neighbors keep an eye out for one another and are quick to offer help to anyone who needs it. Churches are a far more common sight than bars.

"We've got Bible pushers and drug users and regular people like me," Roy said. "I may have long hair and tattoos, but I don't smoke or drink and I go to work every day."

Morris said investigators had not determined whether the victims knew each other. But the idea that they could have lived in that community without knowing one another seemed strange to Roy.

"Everybody in this community knows everybody else and if they tell you they don't, they're lying," he said.

The two Campbells Creek residents, Patton and Meadows, were slain Thursday night. The shootings occurred 90 minutes apart at convenience stores 10 miles from each other.

Four days earlier, Gary Carrier Jr., 44, of South Charleston, was shot to death while talking on a pay phone outside a Charleston convenience store.

Earlier, Morris said the victims' personal histories would be investigated. "Everything is part of the investigation," he said. "We've got to look at everything until we find the culprit that did it."

According to Kanawha County Magistrate Court records, Meadows had been charged three times with battery between February 2000 and November 2001, and his ex-wife Jennifer had filed two domestic violence protective orders, the most recent in August 2002. It was not clear Tuesday when the couple divorced.

Meadows' neighbor, Raymond Wolfe, said he knew Meadows as a restless young man who seemed to be coming and going a lot. He said he was unaware of any problems between Meadows and the neighbors.

"I think he was just a young fellow who hadn't yet found his way," said Wolfe, a retiree who worked more than 30 years for DuPont Chemical Co.

Midge Rader, who is Patton's aunt, said Tuesday that the substitute cook and custodian for Kanawha County schools was drug-free. "She was never on drugs and she never drank," Rader said.

Martin Walker, Patton's longtime companion and the father of her 14-year-old son, said he was meeting with deputies Tuesday and could not comment.


Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved.