UPDATE: Kanawha Sniper Suspect Gets Maximum Sentence

By: Brooks Jarosz, Jessica Ralston, Anna Baxter, WSAZ News Staff Email
By: Brooks Jarosz, Jessica Ralston, Anna Baxter, WSAZ News Staff Email

UPDATE 8/31/12 @ 10:30 a.m.
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The man convicted in one of the three 2003 sniper-style shootings in the Kanawha Valley learned his fate on Friday.

Shawn Lester, 37, of Charleston, was sentenced to 40 years in prison for the death of Jeanie Patton.

Lester pleaded guilty last month to his involvement in Patton’s death. Patton was the second victim in the sniper shootings at various gas stations in the Kanawha Valley.

Lester was originally charged in all three of the shootings, including first degree murder charges in the deaths of Gary Carrier Jr. and Okey Meadows Jr.

However, as part of the plea agreement, Lester can never be tried in either of those murders.

"I am greatly disappointed of the outcome of this nine year ordeal more than I can put into words. This has truly been a travesty of injustice of the murdered victims and their families, "Okey Meadows Sr said. "Numerous improper decisions were made in the early years of this investigation which have left me confused and angry. I am happy Shawn Lester got the maximum for Jeannie's murder, but I am disgusted he will not pay a day for the murder of Okey and Gary Carrier."

Two of the three victims' families spoke out in court Friday to ask the judge to give Lester the maximum sentence because their families have been give a life sentence.

"It is hard to summarize what Shawn Lester has done to our family in the last nine years," Karen Mance, Patton's sister said. "It hurts everyday to know that she's not coming back. Shawn is a monster, who has no remorse."

Mance says her parents have aged and haven't rested since Jeannie was murdered. She says there will always be unanswered questions.

"We the families of all three murders would like to see him [Lester] convicted of all three," Mance said.

Carrier's brother, Greg took the podium visibly upset and asked the judge for the maximum sentence and ran out of the courtroom.

"Just give him the max, just kill him right now...that's all," Carrier said.

Lester also spoke before his sentencing.

Lester said he hopes everyone can get closure on the case and move on with their lives."

"I think everyone in the courtroom has had an occasion where they wish they would have or could have done something different to change the outcome of a situation," Lester said. "Unfortunately my wish or regret cannot change the past. I hope that after today everyone can get a little closure on this case and move on with their lives."

Prosecutors told the judge it was a circumstantial case and the state wanted justice in the case.

"Is this justice? No. Justice would be a life sentence, but I got to move forward with the evidence that I have and based on the evidence that we had I think we maximized the sentence and that's all I can ever promise," Kanawha County Prosecutor Mark Plants said.

Five critical witnesses have died since murders, prosecutors said. One of those witnesses' skeletal remains were found under a porch in Kentucky.

Before Lester was sentenced, Circuit Court Judge Duke Bloom applauded both sides for time and effort put into the case with a goal of achieving justice.

"There's just too much violent crime, in fact it seem to be on the uprising," Judge Bloom said as he cited the recent death of trooper. "Death is senseless."

In the end, the judge sentenced Lester the maximum sentence and will not allow him to get credit for the time he's already served behind bars.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 8/14/12 @ 11:40 p.m.
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Marking nine years since the Kanawha Valley sniper killings, the victims' families were holding vigil and hoping to move forward.

It comes just weeks after the key suspect admitted to playing a major role as friends and family of the victims united to remember the past, mark the present and look ahead to the future without the ones they loved.

The Speedway in Campbells Creek has been a gathering spot every year since the sniper murders. It's the place where Jeanie Patton was shot and killed. Still, nine years later, the feelings are still just as raw.

Families of Gary Carrier Junior, Jeanie Patton and Okey Meadows Junior expected to be in court for weeks. However, the man believed to be responsible, Shawn Lester, struck a deal and just recently pleaded guilty in Patton's murder.

For Jeanie Patton's father, Larry Patton, he believes justice has not been served and criticizes the prosecutors. He says the case was taken in the wrong direction from the beginning and allowing Shawn Lester to plead guilty to second-degree murder lets him off the hook.

"It's not right," Larry Patton said. "It's not fair to me. It's not fair to the girl in the ground or the two guys in the ground. It ain't fair."

Patton added, "He took life, and I think I'd like to take his if I could."

"I just wish he could spend the rest of his life behind bars," Jeanie Patton's sister Karen Mance said. "And I think that's still too good for him because he's still breathing, he still gets to visit with his family and friends and she don't."

All of the families are forced to deal with that harsh reality, knowing a case so lengthy and key evidence never found was too risky to leave in the hands of a jury.

Victim Gary Carrier's sister, Mary Hardwick, says the last thing she would want is Lester getting out from behind bars.

"I worry that if it went to a jury you never know what could have happened because people want to see hard evidence," Mary Hardwick said. "Of course after nine years that's hard to come up with."

Hardwick added, "I think justice will be served when he goes in front of God."

The victims' families will be in court at the end of the month to face Lester. They all plan on reading victim impact statements.

They say the pain is different now, knowing they can no longer hold out hope as it will soon be case closed.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 8/14/12 @ 6:25 p.m.
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A candlelight vigil Tuesday evening commemorated the nine-year anniversary of the sniper-style murders at gas stations in Kanawha County.

August 2003 marked a time of terror just to fill up, but this year is different. Shawn Lester admitted to one of the murders before his trial ever got underway. It's caused the families to gather again but for a different purpose.

Families and friends of the victims gathered at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Speedway gas station in Campbells Creek, as they have for years before.

It's a spot that's been a meeting place, a place to plead for answers and keep the case from going cold. This year, though, is about keeping memories alive.

Jeannie Patton was shot and killed Aug. 14, 2003, at that Speedway location. Some 90 minutes later, Okey Meadows Jr. was shot at a gas station in Cedar Grove. The other victim, Gary Carrier Jr. was shot just days before at the Go-Mart in Charleston.

This year, the man believed to be responsible, Shawn Lester, is still behind bars after admitting in court he was involved in Patton's murder.

Of course, that begs the question of closure for the other victims' families. The plea deal in the sniper case was not entirely what they had hoped see happen.

The Meadows family tells WSAZ.com they will not attend this year or take part in the candlelight vigil.

For the other families, it's about keeping memories alive for everything they've been through. They say knowing Lester is in jail has them wanting to be seen and expressing that they'll never forget.

Family members say the pain today is just as harsh as the raw feelings in 2003 and on the day Shawn Lester admitted some guilt.

Candles, photographs and signs will get set up at the vigil and carry on until 10 p.m. Tuesday.

We'll hear from the family members and have coverage of the nine-year anniversary coming up at 10 p.m. on myZ and at 11 p.m. on WSAZ.NewsChannel 3.



UPDATE 8/13/12 @ 1:00 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Family and friends will gather Tuesday to mark the ninth anniversary of the three sniper style shootings that paralyzed the Kanawha Valley in fear.

The crimes all started on August 10, 2003 when Gary Carrier Jr was shot and killed at the Go-Mart on Bigley Avenue in Charleston.

On August 14, 2003 Jeannie Patton and Okey Meadows Jr were killed within ninety minutes of each other at two separate gas stations in eastern Kanawha County.

No one was ever arrested in the case until last spring, when Shawn Lester was charged in connection with Patton's murder. He was later indicted in the deaths of Carrier and Meadows.

Just days before Lester's trial, he sat down for an exclusive interview with WSAZ and denied any involvement in the murders.

Then, on July 30, Lester pleaded guilty to second degree murder in connection with Patton's death. As part of the plea agreement, the other two murder charges were dropped.

The Patton family will hold a candlelight vigil Tuesday at the Speedway gas station on Campbells Creek. The families have gathered there every year on the anniversary of the shootings.

The vigil will be from 7 p.m. until 10 p.m.



UPDATE 8/1/12 @ 7:30 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A retired U.S. Marshal who pinpointed Shawn Lester as a key suspect hours after the 2003 sniper murders says Lester can also be tied to other murders in the Kanawha Valley.

Lester admitted to being involved in at least one of the sniper shootings Monday. He pleaded guilty just days after our exclusive interview when he claimed he was innocent.

Winfield police chief and retired U.S. Marshal John Perrine testified leading up to Lester's trial and says he took his case to the FBI but was ignored. Perrine says Lester was a suspect who almost got away with murder.

Now, new details inside the investigation are being release, revealing Lester was a suspect who was kept secret. Perrine says when he went to federal investigators, he explained how Lester had the means, motive and criminal past capable or murder. However, Perrine was told to "let the professionals handle the case."

"I was upset, I was angry," John Perrine said. "I really felt that people were looking in the wrong direction and they were ignoring relevant facts in this case."

The biggest fact may have been a possible murder weapon. Police say the same rifle was used to kill three people at Kanawha Valley gas stations. One was recovered from the home of Rodney Shaffer Sr., a man police say was a friend and drug dealer with Lester.

"I believe then, as I believe now, that that was the weapon that was involved in the homicides," Perrine said. "I had a very difficult time getting anyone to look at that .22-caliber rifle."

The FBI task force refused to process the rifle as evidence, according to Perrine. He says he kept the rifle for six years until he was forced to return it to Shaffer.

Lester told us in an exclusive interview with WSAZ that he knew the Shaffers but said time and time again, he wasn't a murderer.

"I've done a lot of questionable things in my life," Lester said. "But killing people or having anything to do with anybody dying or being hurt or anything I've never taken part in any of that."

However, that all changed when Lester suddenly pleaded guilty to the murder of one of the sniper victims. Perrine says he can link Lester to the other sniper victims along with several cold cases.

"The fact that he admitted to being a killer, I believe and I still believe there are some unsolved homicides in the valley that are drug related and that Shawn Lester is connected to those homicides," Perrine said. "He's a dangerous man -- it seems that anyone's who's around him winds up dead."

There is critical evidence that Perrine says proves Lester is responsible for other Kanawha County murders.

The FBI says it will not comment on the sniper case.

Lester will face 10 to 40 years behind bars. He'll be sentenced in late August.



UPDATE 7/31/12 @ 2 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Next month the man convicted in one of the three 2003 sniper-style shootings in the Kanawha Valley will learn his fate.

Shawn Lester, 37, of Charleston, pleaded guilty Monday to second degree murder in connection with Jeanie Patton’s death. Patton was the second victim in the sniper shootings at various gas stations in the Kanawha Valley.

Lester was originally charged in all three of the shootings, including first degree murder charges in the deaths of Gary Carrier Jr. and Okey Meadows Jr.

However, as part of the plea agreement, Lester can never be tried in either of those murders.

Lester faces 10 to 40 years in prison, but he could get out in half the time for good behavior. The state is recommending a 30-year sentence.

Kanawha County Prosecutor Mark Plants tells WSAZ.com he won’t comment on any other plea agreements in the case, but he would confirm that the first serious negotiations took place on Monday morning.

Plants says he had full faith in his prosecution team, but this plea agreement was the best case scenario for justice because the case was weak without an eyewitness to the murders of Carrier and Meadows and there were pieces of evidence that were missing.

Plants tells WSAZ.com there is a lot of evidence that has gone missing within the last eight years because several agencies were involved and multiple hands were in it.

However, he would not elaborate on the evidence that was missing.

Prosecutors were also worried about several witnesses and what they may say during the trial. Plants tells WSAZ.com several of the witnesses are in jail and they had nothing to lose once they were on the stand.

The case was a risk, Plants said.

According to Plants, there is no evidence in the prosecutor’s office regarding Lester being involved in any other murders in the county. However, Plants says he can’t comment on any current Charleston Investigations Division (CID) investigations.

Plants says if there is evidence Lester is involved in any other cases his office will not hesitate to prosecute.

Lester also faces federal drug charges. He’ll be sentenced later this year on those charges. It’s still unclear if the federal sentence will run consecutive or concurrent with the murder sentence.



UPDATE 7/30/12 @ 10:25 p.m.
KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Nearly a decade passed from the first shooting death in the sniper-style shootings until the closure with Monday’s plea deal.

But prosecutors say this case could have been closed back in 2003.

Kanawha County Prosecutor Mark Plants says Lester was investigated shortly after the murders and told police that he was there the night Jeannie Patton was killed.

Plants said Charleston Police were on the right track, but the FBI Task Force wanted to take the case in a different direction.

But prosecutors said despite all of that, Charleston Police followed their hunch on Lester for years until they finally got a break in the case and a witness came forward that changed everything.

They say if the officers had been allowed to investigate the case the way they wanted to from the start, this would have been over a long time ago.

"This again has been an ongoing investigation since 2003," Plants said. "I don't know if there was one thing other than the complete all out effort of Detective Cooper and the Charleston Police Department."

The FBI Task Force had become all but obsolete several years ago.

They had focused on a man named Brian Caldwell. He was never charged in the case, though, and prosecutors say there was not any evidence to ever link him to the sniper shootings.



UPDATE 7/30/12 @ 4 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Just days after he sat down exclusively with WSAZ and proclaimed his innocence, Shawn Lester, 37, of Charleston, pleaded guilty to his involvement in at least one of the three sniper shootings that terrorized the Kanawha Valley in 2003.

Lester has been the only one charged in the deaths of Gary Carrier Jr., Jeanie Patton and Okey Meadows Jr. He was expected to go on trial Monday charged with three counts of first-degree murder.

However, shortly before jury selection got underway Monday, Circuit Court Judge Duke Bloom met with attorneys behind closed doors and then called an emergency hearing in the case.

Then, about two hours later Lester entered a courtroom, dressed in a shirt and tie, and pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree murder in the death of Jeanie Patton. As part of a plea agreement, the other charges were dropped, including the first-degree murder charges in the deaths of Carrier and Meadows.

Lester admitted in a courtroom full of people, including the victims' families that he was involved in the sniper-style shooting of Patton. However, he never said he was the one who pulled the trigger.

That story was much different from what he told us during his interview last week. During that interview, Lester talked about Patton, calling her a friend.

“I had nothing to do with it. You know my name will be cleared after trial,” Lester said during the interview last week. “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.”

During the plea hearing Monday, prosecutors laid out the evidence against Lester in regards to Patton's murder.

Prosecutors say four witnesses would have testified that Lester was storing an engine full of meth when it was stolen from his garage along Rutledge Road in Charleston. This is the same garage where police say Lester was seen distributing meth.

The drugs inside the engine belonged to a man named Tito Lopez, of the Mexican mafia, according to the state.

"Mr. Lester was fearful because of the theft of the drugs, the large amount of money, the drugs were related to the Mexican mafia," assistant prosecutor Don Morris said.

Investigators believe Patton's boyfriend at the time of her murder, stole the engine and tried to sell it.

That's when Lester feared for his life and asked a close friend, Rodney Shaffer Sr., who has since died, to help him.

Prosecutors say Shaffer's son, Rodney Shaffer Jr, was set to testify, that he was passed out in the back seat of a green Ford Bronco, the night of August 14, when Patton was killed. According to prosecutors, Shaffer's son, woke up to the sound of a gunshot, saw Patton's car parked at the Campbells Creek Speedway and then remembers speeding away.

Shaffer's son also tells police that the 22 Marlin rifle was stationed between the two seats of the Bronco where Shaffer and Lester were sitting, according to prosecutors.

"He [Rodney Shaffer Jr.] was laying in the backseat, heard a shot and he looked as the car accelerated -- the car being driven by Mr. Lester it was a green Ford Bronco, Morris said. "Jeanie Patton was killed as a result of the theft of the motor."

It's still unclear who actually pulled the trigger, according to prosecutors.

In fact, Shaffer Sr.'s wife, Sandra tells WSAZ.com Tuesday she will never know if her husband pulled the trigger. She says Lester and her husband, Rodney had a close relationship and were involved with selling and distributing meth.

The rifle was never recovered, according to prosecutors. In fact, they report it was destroyed when a vehicle crushed it.

However, investigators spent days at Shaffer's home in Sissonville last year, digging for evidence in the case. Police have never released what or if they found any evidence.

During Monday's hearing, the state did release that a part of the stolen engine was later found in a pond. However, it's not clear where that pond is located.

Prosecutors say the concerted effort between Lester and Shaffer Sr. would make Lester guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Patton.

"The ballistics evidence would be the only and really the main evidence linking the other two victims to this crime, Morris said. "Our main evidence in this case is to the murder of Jeanie Patton, and that's why the state is going forward with this plea."

Bloom asked Lester before he accepted his plea if he wanted dispute the evidence against him, and he declined.

Monday's plea was a surprise for the victims' families.

"It felt kind of good, but at the same time, she's not coming back, Karen Mance, Patton's sister said. "Just to know he gave her a life sentence and to know that we have to go pretty much the rest of our lives without her, I mean that kind of gave us a life sentence too."

Carrier's brother, Greg tells WSAZ.com regardless of Lester only pleading guilty to just one of the murders -- he can now try to move on with his life.

"It still hurts. The pain is always going to be there," Carrier said. "I ain't had no sleep. I can basically go home and go to bed."

"There's still answers, questions and answers. I mean probably that we would have never gotten them answered even if we went to trial. But just to see justice done is a good feeling. And to know that he finally admitted to it and it's been a long hard nine years," Mance said.

Lester now faces 10 to 40 years in prison with this second degree murder charge. The state recommends 30 years.

Lester is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 31.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 7/30/12 @ 11:30 a.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Just as potential jurors were arriving at the courthouse in Charleston this morning, the man at the center of the 2003 sniper-style shootings in Kanawha County decided to plead guilty.

Shawn Lester, 36, of Charleston, was expected to go on trial this week charged with three counts of first-degree murder, in the deaths of Gary Carrier Jr., Jeanie Patton and Okey Meadows Jr.

Lester pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. He faces 10 to 30 years in prison. The other charges were dropped as part of the plea agreement.

Lester’s trial was set to get underway almost nine years to the day when the first victim was shot and killed outside of a gas station in Kanawha County.

Instead, Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Duke Bloom called an emergency hearing after he met with attorneys behind closed doors Monday morning.

At the emergency hearing, the judge announced a plea deal was reached in the case.

The gag order was lifted Monday morning following the court's acceptance of Lester's guilty plea. The order was issued after Lester broke his silence exclusively with WSAZ to give his side of the story. Judge Bloom says he did this to protect Lester's constitutional rights and ensure a fair trial.

During that exclusive interview, Lester claimed his innocence and said he didn’t know Carrier or Meadows. Lester says he was friends with Patton and he would have never hurt her.

“I had nothing to do with it. You know my name will be cleared after trial,” Lester said during the interview last week. “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.”

However, during the plea hearing Monday, Lester pleaded guilty to second-degree murder with the victims' families sitting in the courtroom.

Lester was questioned by the judge once the guilty plea was entered.

Lester appeared in court with a dress shirt and tie.

We have a news team inside the courtroom. Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 7/30/21 @ 10 a.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- An emergency hearing has been called just before jury selection was set to get underway in the sniper trial in Charleston.

Shawn Lester is charged in the deaths of Gary Carrier, Jr., Jeanie Patton and Okey Meadows, Jr. He’s charged with three counts of first-degree murder.

Jury selection was set to get underway at 8:30 a.m. this morning, but the judge met with attorneys behind closed doors and then called the hearing.

NewsChannel 3s Brooks Jarosz reports Lester's federal attorney, public defenders and the media are the only ones at the hearing.

The gag order remains in effect after Lester spoke exclusively with WSAZ last week.

We have a crew inside the courtroom. Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 7/30/12 @ 7:30 a.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Jury selection will get underway Monday in the case against Shawn Lester, 36, of Charleston.

Lester is charged in the deaths of Gary Carrier, Jr., Jeanie Patton and Okey Meadows, Jr. He’s charged with three counts of first-degree murder.

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.

No one was ever charged in the case until last spring when Lester was charged in Patton's murder. He was later indicted in all three murders.

Jury selection is expected to get underway at 8:30 a.m. at the Kanawha County Courthouse in Charleston.

Both sides estimate the trial to last about 6 weeks to get through all the evidence, including 75,000 written documents, 75,000 more electronic files and testimony. Nearly a hundred people are expected to testify during the trial.

NewsChannel 3’s Brooks Jarosz will provide daily updates of the trial. Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 7/29/12 @ 5:40 p.m.
KANAWHA COUNTY, W. Va. (WSAZ) -- In August of 2003, the Kanawha Valley was shaken by the sniper-style shooting deaths of three people in less than a week.

Gary Carrier, Jr., Okey Meadows, Jr. and Jeanie Patton were all shot and killed at Kanawha County gas stations.

Police arrested Shawn Lester and charged him with three counts of first degree murder.

Now, nine years later and just days before his trial, Lester sat down with WSAZ’s Jessica Ralston for an exclusive interview where he proclaimed his innocence.

"I've never been a violent person. Never hurt anyone. And hopefully, you know, hopefully that will come out and everyone will see it,” said Lester.

“I'd say every waking moment is spent going over things that have had to fall into place to get me where I'm at today," continued Lester.

The day after the interview, Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Duke Bloom issued gag order for every one involved in the case.

"There's been a complete investigation. There's evidence that's been collected and there's a trial Monday and we'll present the evidence to the jury and let them make the decision," said prosecutor Mark Plants in an interview with WSAZ’s Brooks Jarosz less than an hour before the gag order was issued.

For the murder victims’ family members it’s been a long and trying time waiting for the wheels of justice to turn.

"The only thing I can do is sit in court and just watch. He'll still live his life out. The Patton's won't have their daughter. Okey, you know, won't be around and my brother ain't here there's no bringing them three back," said Greg Carrier, brother of victim Gary Carrier, Jr.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 7/26/12 @ 1:30 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Just days before he faces a jury, the man accused of the 2003 sniper-style shootings in the Kanawha Valley sat down exclusively with WSAZ to give his side of the story.

This interview has quickly changed the course of one of the biggest murder trials in Kanawha County history.

Shawn Lester, 36, of Charleston, is expected to go on trial Monday in the deaths of Gary Carrier, Jr., Jeanie Patton and Okey Meadows, Jr. He’s charged with three counts of first-degree murder.

Just hours after our interview aired, a hearing was called at 11:30 a.m. Thursday at the Kanawha County Courthouse.

Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Duke Bloom met with both sides of the case and then issued a gag order for everyone involved in the case. The gag order is to prevent investigators, the victims' families, Lester and his family from talking to the media before or during the trial.

Judge Bloom says he's doing this to protect Lester's constitutional rights and ensure a fair trial.

"The gag order applies to the families of the victims, the families of the defendant and no one is permitted to make any out of court statements or comments about this case until such time as the jury has returned a verdict in this case," Judge Bloom said.

Several members of the victims' families attended Thursday's hearing.

Lester spoke exclusively with NewsChannel 3’s Jessica Ralston Wednesday evening from the South Central Regional Jail in Charleston.

“I believe a lot of them are convinced that I’m the man and there’s no other option," Lester said. “I ask them to keep an open mind and not be swayed by information they get. They're only getting part of the story. It would make me feel better as a person to maybe have less people thinking I am this monster.”

During the nearly two-hour interview, three jail guards stood outside the door of a small meeting room where Lester sat in his orange jumpsuit and talked with WSAZ.com. Lester was very calm and didn’t show much emotion as he expressed his innocence.

Lester says he has never got to share his side of the story, but he believes it’s now time to let people know he’s innocent.

“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.”

Lester says at this point, he has nothing to lose. Even if he is not convicted of the sniper killings, Lester says he believes he will spend the rest of his life in prison on unrelated federal charges.

“I believe one way or another the powers that be will see that I spend a long time in prison,” Lester said.

Lester tells WSAZ he doesn’t know if he will testify during his trial. He says it will be up to his attorney, who Lester says also discouraged him from speaking to the media.

Lester’s trial will get underway Monday, almost nine years to the day when the first victim was shot and killed outside of a gas station in Kanawha County.

Carrier was shot and killed on Aug. 10, 2003, at the Go-Mart along 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.

Lester claims he didn’t know Carrier and only knew of Meadows. He says he was friends with Patton.

However, during recent court testimony, a witness testified that Lester knew Patton, Meadows and Carrier. If fact, the witness testified they were all seen together less than a month before the shootings.

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.

During Wednesday’s interview, Lester said he was interviewed right after the murders, but he was cleared once he took a polygraph, provided an alibi and his rifle passed a ballistics test.

Lester says if he knew who pulled the trigger he would have been the first to come forward.

“If I knew who pulled the trigger I would have told law enforcement a long time ago who did. I would have collected the $100,000 reward and I would be sitting on a beach somewhere,” Lester said. “I don’t know what else to say ... There is nothing else I can say.”

Since the three murders, investigators have urged witnesses to come forward, but investigators say many 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.

Lester says many are fellow inmates and many of the stories are inconsistent. He believes many witnesses just want the $100,000 reward.

NewsChannel 3s Brooks Jarosz sat down exclusively with Kanawha County Prosecutor Mark Plants less than an hour before the gag order was issued on Thursday.

Plants admitted he was surprised to see that Lester spoke out just days before his trial.

"I've never heard of this -- I've never heard of a defendant giving a statement," Plants said. "This is a first for me, it's a first for West Virginia, it might be a first in the nation. I don't know that a pretrial felon has voluntarily given a statement or not. I certainly have never heard of it."

"The statement is what it is and the timing is what it is and we're going to show up Monday and be ready to move forward with the case," Plants said.

During Thursday's interview, Plants would not comment on the evidence surrounding the case.

"I'm not going to comment on the innocence or guilt of a defendant," Plants said. "All I will comment on is there's been a complete investigation, the evidence has been collected and the trial is on Monday and we'll present the evidence to the jury and let them make the decision. That's the way the process works."

Earlier this year, Lester’s trial was delayed until July to allow enough time for his attorney to go through all the evidence, including 75,000 written documents, more than 75,000 electronic files and dozens of witness testimonies.

Lester’s attorney has filed two motions 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 those motions.

Since then, potential jurors have been called to serve on the jury. Jury selection is expected to begin on Monday, July 30.

NewsChannel 3’s Jessica Ralston also spoke with Shawn Lester’s mother and father on Wednesday.

Lester’s parents say they will stand by his side because they believe he’s innocent and they love him very much.

“It’s taken a huge toll on everyone's life, my family's, the victim's families, and I would like to take this time to extend my condolences and apologies for them to have to be drug through this because they have the wrong man… and with any luck it will come out at trial that they have the wrong man, but that doesn't help the victims’ families to get any closure on this matter,” Lester said. “I would like to apologize to my family for putting them through for what I’m sure it’s an embarrassment and stressful to have to go through this.”

Prosecutors expect to call nearly a hundred witnesses to the stand during the murder trial. The trial is expected to last several weeks once testimony gets underway.

Victim’s Family Reacts to Lester’s Interview
For the victim’s families, the upcoming murder trial could offer some sort of closure after nine years of heartache and unanswered questions.

Carrier’s brother, Greg, sat down exclusively with NewsChannel 3’s Brooks Jarosz to watch Lester’s interview for the first time.

Greg says hearing him say he’s innocent is tough to hear and left him in disbelief, especially considering the timing of Lester’s willingness to speak out.

"He's a liar, he's the right person ... he's wanting pity now but he isn't getting it," Greg Carrier said.

Carrier believes Lester is the one who pulled the trigger and ultimately killed his brother nearly nine years ago.

"He's on his last, he knows that this is it...I mean he's trying everything in his book just to get everyone to think he's Mr. nice guy, Mr. innocent," Carrier said. "And you don't believe he's innocent?…[He] waits two or three days until court and then he's making this plea to the public -- it's a plea."

Carrier says he doesn’t think he will ever fully heal.

"He's ruined my life for nine years," Carrier said.

He says the only thing he can do now is watch what unfolds in the upcoming weeks.

Carrier says it’s tough and he thinks about his brother, Gary every day.

WSAZ.com also spoke to the family of Okey Meadows Jr. His father wasn’t surprised by what Lester said, but he didn’t want to say anything else since the trial is expected to begin Monday.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 7/24/12 @ 3:30 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Less than a week before the sniper trial gets underway, a firearms expert testified Tuesday the bullets used in the sniper-style shootings in Kanawha County were from the same gun.

Shawn Lester will go on trial Monday in the deaths of Gary Carrier, Jr., Jeanie Patton and Okey Meadows, Jr. All three of them were killed in August 2003 at gas stations in Kanawha County.

Lester appeared in court Tuesday for a pretrial hearing. Both sides filed last minute motions in the case.

During the hearing, prosecutors called Rodger Reed, a retired State Police firearms expert, to the stand. Reed testified that the gun used in the three murders was a Marlin .22 Magnum rifle.

The bullets fired from this type of weapon leave an unusual marking that was consistent in all three murders, according to Reed.

Reed also testified that the bullets recovered from Carrier, Patton and Meadows were from the same gun.

After the testimony, Judge Duke Bloom ruled that Reed could testify as a witness for the prosecution during the trial.

Lester's attorney, George Castelle, filed another change of venue motion, as a last-ditch effort, to get the trial moved out of Kanawha County. The judge denied that request.

Reed is just one of more than 100 witnesses who are expected to testify during the trial.

Many of the witnesses are jail inmates. The judge says those witnesses will be handcuffed and shackled when they testify.

Meanwhile, the judge also considered a motion of whether a rap song could be used as evidence for the state. A witness says Lester admitted to the murders in a rap song.

According to court records, Lester sang the song in a car with the woman. The woman later wrote down the lyrics and kept them.

The defense argued it was her word and paraphrased. In the end, the judge ruled that the prosecutors could use the lyrics as evidence.

Jury selection is expected to get underway at 9 a.m. Monday.

We have a crew in the courtroom. Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 6/27/12 @ 6:50 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Bombshell testimony was heard before the trial for the only suspect in the Kanawha Valley sniper shootings even gets underway.

A pretrial hearing took place for several hours Wednesday, revealing some big surprises surrounding sniper suspect Shawn Lester.

The trial is scheduled to start on July 30, and both sides say they're ready to go.

After nine years, it all boils down to 75,000 written documents, 75,000 more electronic files and new testimony.

A retired U.S. Marshal testified that Lester admitted to knowing all three sniper victims and was present for at least one of the murders in 2003.

Retired U.S. Marshal John Perrine told the court Lester admitted to being at the Speedway gas station in Campbells Creek when Jeanie Patton was shot and killed. However, Lester told the Marshal he was not the shooter.

"And he looked at me and said, straight faced said, 'I was there but I didn't shoot her,' " retired U.S. Marshal John Perrine said.

Less than 48 hours after the third sniper killing, Perrine says he head Lester in custody for a separate crime, a prior drug conviction. After talking with Lester, Perrine says he linked Lester to all three sniper victims and then went to the FBI and the task force with the tip.

"The information I had, I rang clarion as loud as I could to people," Perrine said. "I thought Mr. Lester was the sniper, but no one listened to me."

Despite repeated attempts to convince investigators he had cracked the case, Perrine says he was told they already had a suspect and believed the shootings were random.

"I was told to go back and sit in the court and let the professionals handle it," Perrine said.

However, since Lester was never read his rights and Perrine's tip was never investigated, the judge had to throw out the evidence and Perrine can not share testimony in the trial.

More stunning evidence also came out from another witness who says he knew all the victims: Gary Carrier Jr., Okey Meadows Jr. and Jeanie Patton, as well as Lester. The witness testified all of them knew one another, and he saw them together less than a month before the shootings at a friend's garage.

"They were all smoking pot," witness Darrell Spurlock said.

Wednesday's testimony revealed a case of staying tight-lipped, despite a reward and family pleas for information, until now as two sides prepare a case nine years after the crime.

The judge also ruled on several other pieces of evidence, including more than six hours of police interrogation video following Lester's arrest last year. That will be allowed in court.

The victims' families told investigators from the very beginning that they believed a man named Shawn Lester was somehow involved. They told WSAZ.com they were repeatedly ignored because police were focused on another suspect.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 6/27/12 @ 1 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Pretrial motions have revealed some shocking testimony in the case against accused Kanawha Valley sniper shooter Shawn Lester.

The hearing got underway Wednesday morning before Judge Bloom as both sides prepare their cases for trial in late July.

A retired U.S. Marshal testified that Shawn Lester admitted to knowing all three sniper victims and was present for at least one of the murders in 2003.

The marshal says Lester admitted to being at the Speedway gas station in Campbells Creek when Jeannie Patton was shot and killed. However, Lester told the Marshal he was not the shooter.

The marshal says he linked Lester to all three victims less than 48 hours following the last murder. He originally was after Lester for a supervised release violation following a felony drug conviction.

Despite repeated attempts to convince other law enforcement agencies that he had cracked the case, an FBI agent told the marshal to "let the professionals handle it." The marshal says the sniper task force was looking at another suspect and thought the shootings were random.

The marshal testified he verbally told several law enforcement agencies but "no one would listen to me."

Public Defender George Castelle asked the testimony be banned since the evidence was not documented or written down.

Later, another witness testified that he actually saw all three victims and Shawn Lester together before the shootings.

The witness says Jeannie Patton, Gary Carrier Jr., Okey Meadows Jr. and Shawn Lester were all at Marty Walker's garage in Kanawha County smoking marijuana together.

The witness says he never went to the authorities verifying they all knew each other, despite the reward for information to help solve the murders. He was never approached or interviewed until nine years later.

The witness says he knew the group through Gary Carrier Jr. who worked with him at a tire shop in South Charleston.

Much more testimony is expected Wednesday afternoon.

WSAZ's Brooks Jarosz is in the courtroom following the case. He'll have an updated report tonight on NewsChannel 3 at six.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 6/12/12 @ 5 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The only suspect in the Kanawha Valley sniper killings, Shawn Lester, will have to wait to be sentenced on federal gun charges.

His sentencing hearing was delayed Tuesday.

The judge was concerned about additional evidence that prosecutors would present in the federal case would taint the jury pool for the sniper trial.

Lester is accused of shooting and killing three people in 2003 at Kanawha Valley gas stations.

Lester will go on trial in connection with those charges on July 30.

He will be sentenced on the federal gun charges Sept. 13.



UPDATE 5/22/12 @ 11:20 a.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The case against the man charged in the sniper style shootings in the Kanawha Valley in 2003 will go on trial later this summer.

Shawn Lester was back in court Tuesday for a hearing.

The judge held a status conference to make sure both the prosecutor and defense attorney will be ready for the trial set for July 30.

This week the state added several additional witnesses to testify during the trial. Lester's attorney, George Castelle told the judge he will have plenty of time to go through the new evidence for the trial to begin in July.

The judge also discussed the jury questionnaire to make sure both sides agreed on the jury selection process.

Pre-trial motions will get underway in the case on June 27.

Lester is charged in connection with the 2003 murders of Gary Carrier, Jr. Jeanie Patton and Okey Meadows Jr.


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