The Times West Virginian

West Virginia

April 1, 2011

Arrest made in death of one linked to Kanawha County slayings

CHARLESTON — A Charleston man was charged Thursday with killing a woman whose death has been linked to the 2003 sniper-style slayings outside three convenience stores that terrorized residents in Kanawha County.

Charleston police charged 35-year-old Shawn Thomas Lester with murder in the death of Jeanie Patton, 31.

Lester was being held at the South Central Regional Jail without bond. Kanawha County Magistrate Pete Lopez set his next court appearance for April 8. Lester asked for a court-appointed lawyer.

Investigators have said Patton was one of three people who were fatally shot with the same 22-caliber rifle in August 2003. No charges have been filed in the other shootings.

“We’re very, very happy that we’ve been able to make an arrest in this case,” Charleston Police Chief Brent Webster said.

But Webster stressed it’s still early in the investigation.

“When an arrest is made, a lot of people assume that, OK, it’s over, it’s just a matter now of having a day in court,” Webster said. “We will continue to work this. What we hope is as this unfolds, more developments will happen that will be very promising in our investigation.”

Webster and other officials at a news conference declined to answer specific questions about evidence, other possible suspects and what broke the case open.

“There have been leads that have been generated and they continue to be generated, and it’s just heated up,” Webster said.

According to a criminal complaint, a longtime friend interviewed by police on Wednesday said Lester told him Patton was killed in retaliation for the theft of an engine that had been packed with methamphetamine. The friend said Lester was responsible for the drugs.

The 2003 shootings terrorized the Kanawha Valley as they seemed to involve strangers killed randomly.

Gary Carrier Jr., 44, was killed on Aug. 10 while talking on a pay phone outside a Charleston Go-Mart store. Four days later, Patton and Okey Meadows Jr., 26, were shot within 90 minutes of each other at convenience stores about 10 miles apart.

Meadows was buying milk at a pay window in Cedar Grove, while Patton was filling her car with gas in Campbells Creek, both southeast of Charleston.

Investigators have said each victim was shot in the neck and head area. Ballistic tests allowed investigators to pinpoint the type of rifle used to a .22-magnum made by Marlin Firearms. The rifle uses a shell somewhat larger than the standard .22 shell.

“We have enough evidence that this defendant shot Jeanie Patton,” said Kanawha County Prosecutor Mark Plants.

“Once all the evidence is collected, we”ll review it, analyze it and determine whether any more crimes have occurred,” Plants said.

Kanawha County Sheriff Mike Rutherford said he had felt frustration over the course of the 7.5-year-old investigation.

“There’s only one other group of people that wants to solve these homicides more than we do, and that’s the families,” Rutherford said. “Obviously they want closure on it. They want to know what happened, why it happened, and who did it to their loved ones. I could not imagine in my wildest nightmares what it’ll be like for a family member to have this happen to them and to be wondering ... so many years as to the circumstances on it.

“That’s why I think all of us have dedicated everything we have trying to find out what it is.”

It wasn’t immediately known whether a $100,000 reward for information leading to an arrest has been handed out. Webster said he had no information on the reward.


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