EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSINSIDE THE INVESTIGATION
from Eyewitness News Online
Exclusive Look Inside The Sniper Investigation, New Details In Case
Reported by: Kallie Cart
Videographer: Brad Rice
Web Producer: Kallie Cart
Reported: Jul. 31, 2012 9:01 PM EDT
Updated: Aug. 1, 2012 8:27 PM EDT
Charleston , Kanawha County , West Virginia
For the first time, we're getting an exclusive inside look at the evidence in the sniper case.
"He had motive, he had opportunity, he had the means and we have several witnesses who would have said that Lester admitted the shootings to them," Charleston's Chief of Detectives, Lt. Steve Cooper, says.
Lt. Cooper, who lead the investigation for Charleston Police over the past nine years, says Lester has always been his prime suspect and on Tuesday he took Eyewitness News into what's called the "sniper room," a room off limits to anyone outside of the investigation -- until now.
This is where investigators complied a mountain of evidence against Lester. But just as the trial was set to start, Lester pleaded guilty to a second degree murder charge in the death of one of the sniper victims, Jeanie Patton.
"When you take everything into account, and take into account public safety, the prosecutor did what was the right thing," Cooper says. "I have no doubt about his guilt but we have to convince a jury in a matter of days of the complexity of this case."
And it is complex, a tangled web of people, places and evidence -- that has been stitched together over the last nine years.
"There's never been a time period when this case was not being investigated," Cooper says.
Lt. Cooper says in 2011 they were close to charging Lester as the sniper and finally made the move in March after receiving an audio recording of Lester's plan to kill another person over drugs.
"We had to act quickly, we believe, to deter that crime from happening," Cooper says.
Cooper says drugs were the motive in the sniper killings, at least the first two.
"We have witnesses who were prepared to testify that Mr. Lester specifically stated that the way to confuse an investigation is to kill someone who is not directly related to your motive and we've never linked Okey Meadows to the drug enterprise or the theft," Cooper says.
Okey Meadows, Junior was the third sniper victim, killed at the Go Mart in Cedar Grove 93 minutes after Patton was killed at the Speedway in Campbells Creek. Cooper says between the shooting witnesses saw Lester with a 22 magnum and that the drive time is just 17 minutes, plenty of time for Lester to have committed both murders.
Lt. Cooper says Lester knew Meadows but doesn't dismiss the theory that Meadows' death could have been to throw investigators.
A rare pink meth from a Mexican drug dealer is what police believe caused the deaths of Gary Carrier and Patton. Investigators say it was stored in an engine block in Lester's garage and was stolen by Patton's boyfriend, Marty Walker.
"Both Marty Walker and Gary Carrier were passing out this rare pink meth and bragging about it," Cooper says.
But police say Lester isn't the only one to blame for the sniper killings. A man named Rodney Shaffer, Sr. was the money behind the meth. He was with Lester when Patton was killed and destroyed the gun used in all three shootings.
"If Rodney Shaffer, Sr. were alive today, he would also be going to prison. He is just as responsible for these murders," Cooper says.
As for Tito Lopez, the Mexican Mafia drug supplier, he disappeared a few days after the murders, leaving behind a multi-million dollar drug operation. He's since been spotted in Texas and Mexico and is being sought by the border patrol to face an indictment in the sniper case.
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