CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Investigators backed away Wednesday from a "random sniper" theory behind three murders outside convenience stores last week, saying at least two of the victims were deliberately targeted.
"I don't believe (the shooter) just happened upon them," said Kanawha County Sheriff's Deputy Phil Morris. "They were obviously targets."
Morris would not say why he thought that or what the motive might have been. He also declined to comment on potential suspects.
"I believe it's one shooter, one weapon, two victims. Possibly three," he said.
Ballistics tests showed Jeanie Patton, 31, and Okey Meadows Jr., 26, were killed Aug. 14 by the same small-caliber weapon, Morris said. Both lived in Campbells Creek and were shot about 90 minutes apart at convenience stores 10 miles from each other.
Tests were incomplete on the bullet that killed 44-year-old Gary Carrier Jr. four days earlier while he was making a telephone call outside a Charleston convenience store.
All three were shot in the head or neck between 10:20 p.m and 11:30 p.m.
Residents in Campbells Creek have raised concerns that the shootings may have been related to drugs. Morris would not say if any of the victims had drug ties, or elaborate on why Patton and Meadows may have been targeted.
Similar concerns have not been raised about Carrier's death.
"We weren't pursuing the drug angle. We didn't have anything in the past to link that person with drugs," Charleston Police Chief Jerry Pauley said Wednesday.
Meanwhile, investigators have narrowed hundreds of tips to 10 solid leads, and said they were reviewing security videos from the stores where Patton and Meadows were killed. "What's on that tape, I don't want to comment on," Morris said.
The notion that someone has been shooting people at random in the Kanawha Valley never sounded very plausible to David Roy, of nearby Point Lick Hollow.
"We always thought those shootings were drug-related, and the police should know it too," Roy said. "Pills and meth and the hard stuff has swept through here just over the last couple of years."
For the most part, however, Campbells Creek is a quiet, rural community about 10 miles east of the state capital where neighbors keep an eye out for one another and are quick to offer help to anyone in need. Up and down the hollow, churches are a far more common site than bars.
"We've got Bible pushers and drug users and regular people like me," Roy said. "I may have long hair and tattoos, but I don't smoke or drink and I go to work every day."
Morris said the victims' personal histories would be investigated.
"Everything is part of the investigation," he said. "We've got to look at everything until we find the culprit that did it."
According to Kanawha County Magistrate Court records, Meadows had been charged three times with battery between February 2000 and November 2001, and his ex-wife Jennifer had filed two domestic violence protective orders, the most recent in August 2002. It was not clear Tuesday when the couple divorced.
Meadows' family could not be reached for comment.
A neighbor, Raymond Wolfe, said he knew Meadows as a restless young man who seemed to be coming and going a lot. He said he was unaware of any problems between Meadows and the neighbors.
"I think he was just a young fellow who hadn't yet found his way," said Wolfe, a retiree who worked more than 30 years for DuPont Chemical Co.
Midge Rader, who is Patton's aunt, said Tuesday that the substitute cook and custodian for Kanawha County schools was drug-free. "She was never on drugs and she never drank," Rader said.
Martin Walker, Patton's longtime companion and the father of her 14-year-old son, said he was meeting with deputies Tuesday and could not comment.
Morris said Campbells Creek residents' concerns about the extent of drug dealing in the area was a surprise to his investigators.
"Until this double homicide, the community hasn't spoken out," Morris said. "We knew there were drugs on Campbells Creek, but not to the extent the public is telling us now."