EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSMURDER CASE PLEA
from Eyewitness News Online
B R E A K I N G N E W S !Kanawha County Sniper Suspect Pleads Guilty To 2nd Degree Murder
Reported by: Kallie Cart
Videographer: Bob Aaron
Web Producer: Bethany Simmons
Also Contributing: Kristin Keeling, Bob Aaron
Reported: Jul. 29, 2012 6:33 PM EDT
Updated: Jul. 30, 2012 5:49 PM EDT
Charleston , Kanawha County , West Virginia
The trial for the man charged with the Kanawha County sniper-style murders is over before it even started. Monday morning, Shawn Lester plead guilty to second degree murder in the death of Jeanie Patton.
In exchange for that guilty plea, the three first degree murder charges were dropped. Lester is accused of killing Jeannie Patton, Gary Carrier, and Okey Meadows Junior, each outside of gas stations throughout the Kanawha Valley in 2003.
Prosecutors say a man named Rodney Shaffer, Jr. was in the back of a Ford Bronco driven by Shawn Lester the night that Jeannie Patton was shot. Shaffer's father, the late Rodney Shaffer, Sr. was a passenger in the car. Rodney Shaffer, Jr. says he heard a shot and saw the Speedway gas station sign but didn't see who shot Patton. Patton was shot from across the road, so police believe the driver of the car, Lester, pulled the trigger.
Patton was shot after her boyfriend at the time, Marty Walker, stole an engine block full of rare pink meth from Lester. The meth belonged to a member of the Mexican Mafia, Gilberto "Tito" Lopez. Prosecutors say Lester told several people he feared for his life.
The same gun was used in the killings of Meadows and Carrier.
Lester could face 10-40 years in jail and prosecutors are recommending a 30 year sentence. Lester has also plead guilty to federal gun charges and is facing federal drug charges, brought as a result of evidence found during the sniper investigation.
Families of the victims had mixed emotions about the plea. They approved the deal before prosecutors accepted it. Jeannie Patton's father, Larry, says he is not happy, saying he thought the prosecution had a good case and wanted to see Lester get a life sentence. Greg Carrier, Gary's brother, says he's glad its over and that Lester admitted his guilt.
Eyewitness News Anchor Kallie Cart and Reporter Bob Aaron will have much more on this story tonight 6, 10, and 11.
A high profile Kanawha County murder trial took a twist before it ever got underway Monday morning. Judge Duke Bloom called an emergency hearing away from jurors.
Shawn Lester is accused of killing three people at gas stations throughout the Kanawha Valley back in 2003. He also faces federal gun and drug charges.
Eyewitness News has a crew inside the courtroom. Stay tuned to www.wchstv.com for the latest developments on this story.
One of the highest profile murder cases in the Kanawha Valley is set to get underway Monday morning.
Shawn Lester is accused in the 2003 sniper shootings. Lester will face a jury nearly nine years after Jeannie Patton, Gary Carrier, and Okey Meadows Junior were killed outside of gas stations.
The trial could last up to six weeks, and because the case is so high profile, Judge Duke Bloom has issued a gag order for all involved in the massive case.
In March of 2011, 35-year old Shawn Lester was arrested for the murder of Jeannie Patton at the Speedway in Campbells Creek on August 14, 2003.
As the evidence piled up, Lester was also charged in the deaths of Gary Carrier and Okey Meadows Junior who were shot at gas stations in Charleston and Cedar Grove.
The families never stopped pushing for justice. They gathered every year to remember their loved ones and the investigation never stopped.
Shawn Lester was a prime suspect for Charleston Police from the beginning, and after nearly a decade they finally had enough witnesses and evidence to charge Lester.
The prosecution contends Lester is linked to all three victims through drugs and that Lester killed all three over a stolen engine block, filled with rare pink meth, which Lester got from a Mexican drug trafficker named Gilberto "Tito" Lopez.
The state has compiled nearly 150,000 documents, pictures, and videos, and is expected to call more than 100 witnesses in what will be a high profile case.
Lester has maintained his innocence and the defense has tried to move the trial over fears of a tainted jury pool. But those attempts were denied.
Monday morning will be the culmination of nine years of endless work for investigators and lawyers. And the first step toward justice for the families of the sniper victims. Justice that has been a long time coming.
Because of the magnitude of the trial and how many people are involved, it has been moved to a larger courtroom in the old Kanawha County Courthouse.
Jury selection gets underway at 8:30 a.m. on Monday.
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