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Sheriff: Hitchhiker shot 2 on S.C. highway to steal car

ANDERSON, S.C. - A 22-year-old man shot two people who stopped to give him a ride on Interstate 85 in South Carolina on Christmas Eve because he wanted their car to drive to Georgia, a sheriff said Wednesday.

John Villarreal was arrested Tuesday in Greenville County, S.C. still driving the same car where he pulled the trigger six days earlier, killing one person and critically wounding another, Anderson County Sheriff John Skipper said at a news conference.

Villarreal, of Travelers Rest, S.C., faces murder, attempted murder and several other charges. It wasn't known if he had a lawyer.

Villarreal has no criminal record and didn't look dangerous when he was flagging down cars for a ride Christmas Eve, Skipper said.

"We can't be too careful anymore. You just can't look at people and tell what's in their mind," Skipper said.

Mary Fowler, 43, died several hours after the shooting. She and James Dobson II, 44, were found on the side of southbound I-85 in Anderson County, S.C., around 6:30 a.m. on Dec. 24. Dobson remains in critical condition, authorities said. Anderson County straddles I-85 at the Georgia line.

Villarreal told investigators that the victims offered to drive him to the Georgia state line for $25. He needed to go further down the road, so he asked to use the bathroom on the side of I-85 and shot them both in the back of the head when the car stopped, Skipper said.

Villarreal dumped the victims' clothes off the next exit, cleaned up the car at a truck stop and kept driving, investigators said.

"It was totally random," the sheriff said. "We have no information he is connected to either of our victims."

It's fortunate there weren't more victims, Skipper said. Villarreal was pulled over for speeding in Johnson County, Ga., a few hours after the Dec. 24 shooting. The sheriff said Villareal considered shooting the trooper who wrote him a ticket, but stopped because he didn't want to be captured by the camera in the patrol car.

He also thought about killing the deputy who stopped him Tuesday near Traveler's Rest, but didn't get a chance, Skipper said.

Skipper said Villarreal kept the car at an abandoned house several miles away from his home in Traveler's Rest and would ride a bicycle between the two houses.

Deputies found evidence at the abandoned house that linked him to the shooting and possibly other crimes. Skipper refused to specify what that evidence was.

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