WSAZ will provide daily, comprehensive coverage of the Sniper Trial beginning Monday when jury selection gets underway. You can follow the suspect, the victims' families and the trial with constant updates here at WSAZ.com and on WSAZ and myZ.
NewsChannel 3's Brooks Jarosz will be inside the courtroom providing constant updates on our social media platform. Make sure you follow the #wsaz and #snipertrial to stay connected.
The families of the three people killed during the 2003 sniper-style shootings in Kanawha County are hoping to finally get some closure after years of unanswered questions and emotional pleas for information in the deaths of their loved ones.
Shawn Lester, 36, of Charleston, is expected to go on trial on Monday in the deaths of Gary Carrier Jr., Jeanie Patton and Okey Meadows Jr. Lester is charged with three counts of first degree murder.
The trial will get underway almost nine years to the day when the first victim was shot and killed outside of a gas station in Kanawha County.
Extra security measures will be in place for the highly publicized case. Earlier this year, the Kanawha County Commission voted to spend $33,500 to add security cameras and panic alarms to bring the county’s largest courtroom, Courtroom 4, up to current standards. In the past, this courtroom was only used for ceremonial events, but the recent upgrades will allow it to handle major trials like Lester’s in the future.
A gag order is in affect after Lester broke his silence last week and sat down exclusively with WSAZ to give his side of the story.
This on-camera interview quickly changed the course of one of the biggest murder trials in Kanawha County history when Judge Duke Bloom issued the emergency order.
The gag order was put in place to prevent investigators, the victims' families, Lester and his family from talking to the media before or during the trial.
Judge Bloom says he did this to protect Lester's constitutional rights and ensure a fair trial.
The victims’ families have been outspoken since the murders, even offering a cash reward, but investigators haven’t released many details about the case until Lester was arrested last March.
Since the three murders, investigators have urged witnesses to come forward, but many said they feared for their own safety. Since Lester’s arrest, prosecutors say dozens have now come forward with information and say that Lester admitted to them he was the one who pulled the trigger. Many of them will testify during the trial in the upcoming weeks.
According to the criminal complaint, on March 30, 2011, the same day Lester was arrested, a friend of Lester told police Lester admitted he had killed Jeanie Patton in retaliation for the theft of a big block Chevrolet motor from a garage located off Rutledge Road in Charleston.
Lester told his friend the motor had been stolen by a man and Jeanie Patton after it had been packed with a large amount of methamphetamine for which Lester was responsible, according to the complaint.
Lester told the friend he and someone else owned the motor and the source of supply for the drugs was a Mexican national named, "Tito," according to the complaint. Lester's friend also told police Patton was shot because of the theft of the drugs, according to the complaint.
The criminal complaint states, that Lester went to Sandra Shaffer's house in Sissonville back in 2003 and asked if he could hide on her property because someone had broken into his garage and stole "the engine and the dope." Lester also told Shaffer that he needed to hide because someone was "after him" due to the theft of drugs," according to the complaint.
That’s the property where investigators spent days last spring digging for evidence in the case following Lester’s arrest. Police have never released what or if they found any evidence.
Since then, WSAZ.com has learned through testimony that Lester did in fact know Patton, Meadows and Carrier and they were all seen together less than a month before the shootings.
However, during the interview last week, Lester denied knowing Carrier and Meadows. He says Patton was a friend and he had nothing to do with her murder.
“I had nothing to do with it. You know my name will be cleared after trial.” Lester said. “I have done some questionable things in my life, but killing people or having anything to do with anybody dying or being hurt … I haven’t taken any part in that.”
Carrier was shot and killed on August 10, 2003 at the Go-Mart on Bigley Avenue. Four days later, Patton and Meadows were killed within 90 minutes of each other at two separate gas stations in eastern Kanawha County.
The victims' families say they told investigators from the very beginning that they suspected Lester was somehow involved. They told WSAZ.com they were repeatedly ignored because investigators were focused on another suspect.
Then, on March 30, 2011, police gathered enough evidence to charge Lester with Patton’s murder. Just weeks later, Lester was indicted in all three murders.
These sniper-style shootings terrorized the Kanawha Valley back in 2003 and left many on edge at area gas stations.
Since Lester’s arrest last year, both sides of the case have gone through 75,000 written documents, more than 75,000 electronic files and dozens of witness testimonies.
Earlier this year, the defense tried to get the case moved out of Kanawha County because he didn’t believe Lester would get a fair trial due to the intense media coverage. Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Duke Bloom denied that motion.
Since then, potential jurors have been called to serve on the jury. Jury selection is expected to begin on Monday, July 30. The defense has since filed a new motion, as a last ditch effort, to get the case moved out of Kanawha County.
Lester also faces unrelated federal charges. The latest indictment came down less than two weeks ago.
Lester was indicted on federal drug charges after prosecutors say he distributed oxycodone and cocaine for at least six years. If convicted on these charges, he faces up to 20 years in prison.
Lester is also waiting to be sentenced on unrelated federal gun charges. The sentencing was delayed last month because the judge was concerned about additional evidence that prosecutors would present in the federal case would taint the jury pool for the sniper trial in Kanawha County. His new sentencing date is scheduled for September 13.
Again, the federal charges are unrelated to the trial, involving the deaths of Patton, Carrier and Meadows.
Prosecutors expect to call more than a hundred witnesses to the stand during the murder trial. The trial is expected to last a couple of weeks once testimony gets underway.
NewsChannel 3’s Brooks Jarosz will provide daily updates of the trial starting on Monday. Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for more information.