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Help in sniper case may trim Shaffer's sentence

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Federal prosecutors have asked a judge to impose a reduced sentence on a Sissonville man believed to be involved in the 2003 Kanawha County triple sniper slayings.

U.S. Attorney R. Booth Goodwin filed a motion for substantial assistance Monday, asking a judge to give a lenient prison term to Rodney Preston "Little Rod" Shaffer II, who Charleston police have said was with Shawn Thomas Lester the night two of the three sniper victims were killed outside of convenience stores.

Lester pleaded guilty last month to one count of second-degree murder in relation to the death of Jeanie Patton. He allegedly carried out the shootings of Patton, Gary Carrier Jr. and Okey Meadows Jr., in retaliation for the theft of hundreds of thousands of dollars of rare pink methamphetamine.

Lester lived with Shaffer on his parents' acres-large property off Hughart Drive in Sissonville, which police searched thoroughly after Lester was arrested last year, hoping to find the murder weapon. Police also believed that at least one body was buried under the Shaffer property, according to interrogation transcripts attached to Lester's Kanawha County court file.

The murder weapon, believed to be a .22 Magnum caliber Marlin, was never found. However, police did find an arsenal of dozens of handguns, rifles and shotguns in a gun safe that belonged to Shaffer's father, Rodney Preston "Big Rod" Shaffer, who died in 2008. A federal grand jury later indicted the younger Shaffer on charges of being a drug user in possession of a firearm.

Shaffer's lawyer said in a sentencing memorandum filed last week that Shaffer gave detectives critical information that eventually helped law enforcement secure Lester's conviction.

"The State of West Virginia has indicated that Lester's plea was the principal result of Mr. Shaffer's expected eye witness testimony that directly linked Lester to the murder of Jeanie Patton," Sean W. Cook said in the memorandum. "The defendant's cooperation throughout the sniper investigation was immense."

Shaffer frequently met with detectives and gave several statements that helped the investigation and even accompanied lead detective Lt. Steve Cooper to "various locations pertinent to the investigation and there provided more valuable information," Cook said.

On another occasion, after Lester allegedly gave a statement that called into question the truthfulness of Shaffer's expected testimony during the sniper trial, Shaffer volunteered to take a lie detector test, which he passed.

Federal prosecutors also relied on Shaffer's statements to secure Lester's guilty pleas on a firearm possession charge and a drug trafficking charge, which were unrelated to the sniper slayings.

Shaffer was placed in lockdown at South Central Regional Jail after at least one inmate attacked him and referred to him as a "snitch," Cook said.

The lawyer asked U.S. District Judge John T. Copenhaver to sentence Shaffer to time served and place him on supervised release. The judge postponed the sentencing hearing until Sept. 6.

On July 31, after Lester pleaded guilty to the murder charges connected with Patton's death, prosecutors said that Shaffer, his father and Lester were inside the elder Shaffer's green Ford Bronco the night Jeanie Patton was shot and killed as she was pumping gas at a Campbells Creek Speedway station.

The younger Shaffer, according to detectives, was strung out on a days-long drug binge and was passed out in the back of the vehicle. When Lester fired a single shot from his rifle, Shaffer sat up just in time to see Patton fall to the ground, detectives said.

After Patton was killed, Lester drove the two Shaffers to the hospital for the birth of the elder Shaffer's son.

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


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