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Body may be buried at Shaffer property, transcripts indicate

Photo acquired from court records
In the spring of 2011, investigators obtained a search warrant for Sandra Shaffer's property in Sissonville and used an excavator to dig up portions of property and tear Shaffer's home -- two trailers bolted and welded together -- in half. Based on their investigation into the shootings, Charleston Police believe at least one body could be buried on the property.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Transcripts connected to the Kanawha County sniper investigation still indicate that at least one body may be buried under Sissonville property that police thoroughly investigated and was owned by men believed to be involved in the triple killings in 2003.

Last year, a day before Shawn Thomas Lester was arrested in connection to the murder of Jeanie Patton, Charleston Police detectives interrogated Rodney "Little Rod" Shaffer II, one of the men who were reportedly with Lester when Patton was gunned down at a Campbells Creek convenience store.

During the interrogation, Charleston Police Lt. Steve Cooper told Shaffer that detectives believed there were "four total" people who were killed around the same time of the sniper slayings. Cooper, along with Det. Chris Powell, questioned Shaffer about whether bodies were buried under his acres-large property in Sissonville, off of Hughart Drive.

"You ever heard about anybody being buried on your alls property up there?" Cooper asked.

At first, Shaffer denied hearing any rumors, but when pressed, said that his father, Rodney Preston "Big Rod" Shaffer used to say that, "I'd bury any [expletive] body if I had the chance."

Shaffer also indicated that he'd heard that someone might have been buried on the property inside a vehicle.

"I've heard people talk about if they brought somebody up there in a vehicle [they] would bury them or something," he said, later adding, "If you are trying to click something to make me remember, it ain't working."

On Monday, Lester pleaded guilty to second degree murder charges linked to Patton's death, but did not admit that he pulled the trigger of the scoped .22 Magnum caliber Marlin believed to be the murder weapon.

 As part of the plea, Lester also did not admit culpability in the murders of Gary Carrier Jr., and Okey Meadows Jr., who were shot and killed outside of separate convenience stores. Prosecutors believe Lester killed Carrier and Patton in retaliation for the theft of an engine block filled with several pounds of rare, pink methamphetamine worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The meth belonged to a Mexican national named Gilberto "Tito" Lopez Reyna, who operated a multimillion-dollar drug enterprise stretching from Kanawha County to Elkhart, Ind. Police say Lester's Rutledge Road garage served as a front for that drug operation.

Cooper said this week that Lester killed Meadows at random to throw off the investigation.

Both "Big Rod" and "Little Rod" Shaffer were sitting in a green Ford Bronco with Lester at the scene of Patton's murder, authorities say. "Big Rod" Shaffer died in 2008. The younger Shaffer, who is currently in jail on a separate charge, has signed a plea agreement admitting to conspiracy charges.

On March 28, 2011, two days before Lester was arrested in connection to Patton's murder, investigators obtained a search warrant for Shaffer's residence. According to the warrant, police believed a Dodge pickup truck, used in at least one of the three killings, along with the murder weapon, was buried under the property.

Police used an excavator to dig up portions of property and tear Shaffer's home -- two trailers bolted and welded together -- in half. The truck was never recovered, but police confiscated an arsenal of dozens of rifles, shotguns and handguns from "Big Rod" Shaffer's gun safe. Police believe that the weapon Lester allegedly used in the sniper killings was destroyed in a car crusher.

Sandra Shaffer filed a lawsuit following the search warrant raid, alleging that police needlessly destroyed her home while looking for evidence. In the lawsuit, she alleged that police had believed "bodies or other evidence related to the alleged 'sniper shootings,'" were hidden on the property.

Shortly after photos of the search warrant raid were released to the public, Sandra Shaffer fired her lawyer and told media outlets that she was going to drop the lawsuit.

About a month after Lester was arrested and charged with Patton's death, "Little Rod" Shaffer, who was being held in South Central Regional Jail on a separate charge, called his mother.

Lester, "Little Rod" told his mother, had told him that he was going to "take the rap" for the sniper slayings in order to clear the Shaffers, according to the jail call transcript.

In a separate jail call about two months later, Sandra Shaffer indicated that detectives had been questioning her about the body of a black man whom they believed was buried on her property.

"Well, and they're still hollerin' about that damn n---'s body," she said. "I don't know who the f--- that is."

"I know all about it," Rodney Shaffer responded.

"Huh?"

"Never mind," he said.

Cooper said Wednesday that he could not comment on any continuing investigation of the Shaffer property. Police did not find evidence of bodies during their initial search warrant raid of the property, he said.

Supervising deputy U.S. Marshal John Perrine, who led portions of the initial sniper investigation in 2003, said that Lester may be connected to several unsolved murders around Kanawha County, and urged law enforcement to reopen some cold case investigations, though he could not go into specifics.

"Theories that there were other homicides," Perrine said. "It's part of the issue that they need to reevaluate and take a look at several cases over the last 10 years."

Lester, Perrine said, was feared because of his connection to the Mexican mafia, and the cross-state drug enterprise that reportedly fueled the sniper murders.

Reach Zac Taylor at Zachary.Taylor@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.


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