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Same Gun Used In 2 Sniper Attacks

Kanawha County Sheriff Deputies, from left, Sgt. Noel Braley, C.M. George, and B.D. Reynolds compare information on the sniper suspect at the Bowincal's in Cambell's Creek, W.Va., Aug. 18, 2003. Three shootings, including one in Campbell's Creek, occurred within the last two weeks outside convenience stores, where the victims were hit in the head or neck from at least 30 yards away. (AP Photo/Charleston Gazette, F. Brian Ferguson)
AP
As federal and state authorities sift through clues into a string of sniper-style shootings in the area, they are getting an earful of advice - from residents themselves.

Officials earlier 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.

Yet Campbells Creek residents have expressed the possibility 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," Kanawha County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Phil Morris said Tuesday. "We would be remiss in not mentioning the possible drug connection."

Late Tuesday, Morris told a newspaper that ballistic tests showed the same weapon was used to kill both Campbells Creek residents. Tests on the third victim were incomplete.

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."

CBS News Correspondent Thalia Assuras reports police have been looking for a white male seen speeding away from one of the crime scenes. They are also trying to find a Ford XLT-model pickup, dark, maybe maroon, with an extended cab and gold trim at the base.

Police have stepped up patrols and increased their visibility around gas stations, reports CBS News Correspondent Jim Krasula, and some gas station operators have improved outdoor lighting. Others have hired private security guards.

"We have already received substantial information that we hope will lead to an arrest," said Sgt. Noel Braley.

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 have 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, Jeanie Patton, 31, and Okey Meadows Jr., 26, 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.

Morris told the Charleston Gazette in Wednesday's editions that ballistic tests showed that the same weapon was used to kill Patton and Meadows. The type of weapon used and its caliber were not been released. A call late Tuesday to Morris was not returned.

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.