CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Charleston Police detective alleged that one of the three victims in the 2003 sniper-style killings that rocked Kanawha County was randomly selected and not connected to a conspiracy to steal a drug-laden engine block from a Rutledge Road garage, which was a front for a multimillion-dollar, cross-state drug operation.
On Aug. 14, 2003, in order to throw off the police investigation into the deaths of Gary Carrier Jr., and Jeanie Patton, Shawn Thomas Lester shot and killed Okey Meadows Jr., at a Cedar Grove gas station, Charleston Police Lt. Steve Cooper, the lead detective in the Lester investigation, said Wednesday.
"Lester specifically stated, to get away with killing someone after they've [messed] with you, is to kill someone unrelated to your motive in order to throw off the investigation," Cooper said, relaying information that he had received from witnesses.
On Monday, minutes before his lawyers and prosecutors were set to select a jury for what promised to be a weeks-long trial, Lester pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in connection to the killing of Patton.
As part of the plea, prosecutors agreed to drop all three first-degree murder charges he faced, and Lester was not required to admit that he pulled the trigger. During the plea hearing, prosecutors revealed that two other people, Rodney Preston "Big Rod" Shaffer and his son, Rodney "Little Rod" Shaffer II, were all sitting in the same vehicle when Patton was killed. The elder Shaffer died in 2008. The younger Shaffer is in jail on an unrelated charge.
Investigators have said since Lester was arrested last year that the killings, which were at some point believed to be random, were connected to the theft of an engine block from Lester's garage on Rutledge Road in Campbells Creek. Lester had hidden several pounds of rare pink methamphetamine, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, inside the engine block.
The garage itself was a front for a multimillion-dollar drug ring -- led by a Mexican national named Gilberto "Tito" Lopez and his brother Jaime Lopez -- that spanned from Indiana to Kanawha County, Cooper said.
Carrier and Marty Walker, Jeanie Patton's common law husband, stole the engine block from Lester's garage, Cooper said. Witnesses were prepared to testify that Walker and Carrier had been bragging about "killer meth" they had.
Lester soon discovered that Walker and Carrier stole the meth, Cooper said, which belonged to the Lopez brothers. It's not clear if Patton had a role in the theft, but Lester apparently targeted her to punish Walker, Cooper said.
On Aug. 10, 2003, at about 11 p.m., while he was talking on a pay phone outside of a Charleston Go-Mart at 722 Bigley Ave., Carrier was killed by a bullet from a .22 Magnum caliber Marlin rifle.
Cooper said that it's still unclear how the shooter knew that Carrier was going to be at the Go-Mart at that time.
Four days later, at about 10:15 p.m., Patton, 31, was gunned down as she was pumping gasoline outside a Speedway station on Campbells Creek Drive.
Cooper said that "Little Rod" Shaffer, coming down from a days-long drug binge, was passed out in the back seat of a green Ford Bronco his father owned.
Lester, with "Big Rod" Shaffer sitting in the passenger seat of the Bronco, parked at a carwash across the street from a mobile home repair service center on Campbells Creek Drive, watching for a "certain individual" to pull into the Go-Mart, according to an interrogation transcript from a jailhouse informant.
"After sitting there awhile they spotted the vehicle," the informant said, "They said they pulled out behind it, followed it up the hollow 'til it pulled into a gas station."