Soon after the DC sniper murders were solved by the arrest of John Allen Muhammed and John Lee Malvo, another rash of sniper-style murders came into the national spotlight.
This time in West Virginia, within miles of Charleston, the capital city.
I've come to know the key witness in this case. He has, literally, been living in fear for over seven years. Several years ago, his wife was poisoned [in their home] and they lost the baby that she was carrying [to full term].
She was poisoned by a member of the gang, well-disguised and posing as a friend.
It all started with his brother stealing an engine that was stuffed with high-grade methamphetamines, and the shooter confided to the thief's older brother that he would pay for what he had done.
Making good on his threat of retaliation, he murdered, sniper-style, the thief's longtime girlfriend, Jeannie Patton, outside a local convenience store on Aug 14, 2003. A short time later, about 10 miles away, he murdered Okie Meadows Jr, also at a convenience store and sniper style, to make the murders appear random. Four days earlier, he or a member of his gang shot, also sniper-style at a convenience store, Gary Carrier, who had just had a sexual encounter with a gang member's girlfriend. And 5 months earlier, Randy Burgess was shot sniper-style twice in the chest while exiting a local Kroger. Randy owed money [and was slow to pay] for a drug deal with the gang.
Today, after 7 1/2 years, Shawn Lester has been arrested and charged with the murder of Jeannie Patton. He is being held without bail.
This is big news locally and the details are beginning to emerge in the local press.
Among the congratulatory backslapping, a critical fact is being withheld by the Kanawha County Sheriff's Department, and it's only a matter of time before it becomes public. When it does, people should be outraged and heads should roll.
The witness and older brother of the thief came forth soon after the murders, and gave key information to the local Sheriff's Department that was not acted upon.
This key witness had firsthand knowledge of Shawn Lester's guilt in the sniper shooting of Jeannie Patton, and possibly another of the sniper shootings -- and the witness was administered a polygraph test, which he passed.
When law enforcement dragged their feet, this person became a guest on the local program hosted by Andrew Palmer, "West Virginia's Most Wanted" to reveal the truth and to raise public awareness.
Yet key officials sidelined their investigation into Lester [and his cohorts], and blatant nepotism and/or favoritism appears to be the likely cause.
The murders of Gary Carrier, Jeannie Patton and Okie Meadows Jr are all connected, in addition to Randy Burgess, also murdered sniper-style, five months earlier at the Kanawha Mall.
Over the years, the Charleston Police Department had managed to place a mole into the gang and many recordings were made of admissions and braggings. Large excavation equipment is currently being used to dig on a 53 acre plot of property owned by a woman that is believed to have provided shelter and comfort to not only Shawn Lester, but to other members of the criminal gang.
I have no way of knowing if law enforcement is aware that there is strong evidence that members of this gang are also responsible for the kidnapping of numerous local, young women [over the last
five or six years] some of which were used in the production of torture, and so-called "snuff films".
The plot thickens. Only time will tell.