Police stepped up their patrols and conducted door-to-door interviews in this mountain valley, hoping to calm residents fearful that a potential serial killer lurks in their midst.
Two residents from Campbells Creek were killed Thursday — one in the town itself — and police said their deaths, along with an earlier killing, could be the work of a single shooter.
As night fell Sunday, five patrol cars patrolled the area — usually a job undertaken by two units. Several officers began interviewing residents at their homes, searching for clues and hoping to reassure nervous homeowners.
"It has a calming effect on the public," Chief Deputy Phil Morris said.
During the day, children playing ball in Margaret Meador's yard quickly took cover and clutched their bat for protection whenever an unfamiliar car passed by.
Meador's grandson Pat O'Connor said the increased patrols made him think that investigators believe the shooter lives in the neighborhood. "It makes you leery of being outside," O'Connor said.
All three killings had been after dark near gas stations or convenience stores. Morris recommended that residents do their shopping during the day and not go to gas stations at night alone.
Police stopped black trucks with tinted windows and extended cabs; witnesses described seeing such a vehicle at the shootings. Authorities also were scrutinizing video from surveillance cameras.
"There is no suspect at this point," Morris said Sunday.
O'Connor said his family had gathered Sunday night to prepare for the funeral of his newborn daughter, Katie, who died the same night Jeanie Patton, 31, and Okey Meadows Jr., 26, both of Campbells Creek, were murdered.
Already fearful for his family in the area, O'Connor said he now must warn other family members traveling from as far away as Florida for the funeral not to stop for gasoline in the area.
"I told them to make sure to gas up before they get here. And when they do to make sure they don't see a black truck in the parking lot," O'Connor said. Campbells Creek is about 10 miles east of Charleston.
The first victim was Gary Carrier Jr., 34, of South Charleston, who was shot in the head Aug. 10 while using a pay telephone outside a gas station on Charleston's west side.
The shootings were an immediate reminder of the sniper attacks last fall in Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana. Two men were arrested and accused of shooting 19 people, killing 13 and wounding six.
Morris has given out his private office number in hopes that more witnesses — or even the shooter — will come forward. He said the only physical description authorities have in the case is of a large, white male seen at one shooting.
"It's not the best ID in the world, but its the best we have," said Morris.
Outside the Shrewsbury Church of God, near one of the shootings, a sign outside the building read: "Hey sniper Jesus luvs u 2 repent and turn yourself in."
"We want to get the message across no matter what you've done, no matter where you come from, even if you're the sniper," said Jason Meador, a parishioner.
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.