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CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Investigators said Thursday that ballistic tests showed all three victims in a series of sniper-style slayings at area convenience stores were killed by the same weapon.
Charleston Police Chief Jerry Pauley said the victims, who all were shot in the head or neck last week, were killed by a .22-caliber rifle, the Associated Press reported.
"It does positively link the three bullets together. They all three came from the same weapon," Pauley said at an evening news conference. "Now that we know it came from the same weapon, we've got a direction to go in."
Also yesterday, police released a composite sketch of a suspect -- a heavyset white male. Witnesses told police they saw a large white man in a truck the night of the Aug. 14 shootings. Based on witness accounts, investigators are looking for a dark-colored, two-tone Ford F-150 extended cab pickup that was seen at the last two slayings.
Gary Carrier Jr., 44, of South Charleston, was killed Aug. 10 while making a telephone call outside a Charleston convenience store.
Four days later, Jeanie Patton, 31, and Okey Meadows Jr., 26, both of Campbells Creek, were killed within 90 minutes of each other at rural convenience stores about 10 miles apart and less than 20 miles east of Charleston.
Pauley said investigators have not determined whether the three murders are the work of a random sniper. Kanawha County sheriff's officials had said earlier that the killings of Meadows and Patton appeared to be drug-related.
Witnesses told police that they saw a large white man in a truck the night of the Aug. 14 shootings in Campbells Creek and Cedar Grove. A city, county and federal task force continues to sift through more than 400 leads, 10 of which have linked two of the shootings in the Campbells Creek area to drugs.
"As the leads come in, the investigators will go out and check it," Pauley said. "This may give us a little bit more direction to go in."