EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSSNIPER VIGIL
from Eyewitness News Online
Families Gather To Remember Sniper Victims; Speak Out About Plea Deal
Reported by: Kallie Cart
Web Producer: Kallie Cart
Reported: Aug. 14, 2012 11:08 PM EDT
Campbells Creek , Kanawha County , West Virginia
Remembering the sniper victims nine years later, Tuesday night some of the families came together to mark the solemn anniversary. It's something the families have done for nearly a decade but this year they say will likely be the last vigil because they have some answers. But they also say they still don't have closure.
"She's loved and missed too much for any of the pain to ever go away," Karen Mance, Jeanie Patton's sister, says.
The families have come together across from the Campbells Creek Speedway year after year, since Gary Carrier, Jeanie Patton and Okey Meadows, Jr. were killed outside of gas stations in the Kanawha Valley in 2003. But this time, it's different, instead of questioning why and whom -- they have some answers. Shawn Lester, the man charged in all three murders, has pleaded guilty to second degree murder in the death of Patton. A plea that brings mixed emotions.
"This isn't going to make him pay for murder because he didn't admit to murder," Larry Patton, Jeanie's father, says. Lester admitted to being in the car with two other men the night Patton was killed outside the Speedway in Campbells Creek.
Larry is not happy, he says he is upset at Prosecutor Mark Plants for accepting the plea deal which carries 10 to 40 years.
"I don't see why they threw in the towel and accepted the plea, it's not justice," Patton says.
Plants says public safety and the risk of Lester walking free was the reason for accepting the deal. Carrier's sister, Mary Hardwick, says it was the right call.
"I don't feel like there's closure for any of us, but I believe that they got the best that they could for the situation," Hardwick says.
But the families agree there could have been a different outcome if the investigation wasn't, they say, botched in the beginning.
"They said he passed a polygraph and he did not pass a polygraph," Patton says. "I don't know how to explain it, but say there are crooked cops out here."
Lester did fail a lie detector test, four days after the last shooting but the Sniper Taskforce focused in on another man.
"If it would have been investigated right from the beginning, they would have had a good case, and I believe they just didn't want to listen," Hardwick says.
Hardwick does say the investigation and prosecution team that charged Lester did listen. Mark Plants says many prosecutors before him refused to do anything and it was his office and the Charleston Police Department which finally brought charges against Lester. Larry Patton wasn't able to be there when the plea deal was reached because of health reasons.
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