- The Washington Times - Monday, December 1, 2003

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — At least a dozen times a day, Edward Sparks drives his tractor-trailer along the stretch of interstate where authorities are investigating the shootings at 11 vehicles.

“You’re constantly looking,” he said.

After the long holiday weekend, commuters returned yesterday to the five-mile stretch of Interstate 270 where the shootings began earlier this year, most in the past two months.

Terry Daugherty, of Pikeville, Ky., passed through the stretch of highway yesterday on his way home from visiting family for Thanksgiving. The shootings were a topic of discussion during the holiday, and relatives told him to be careful during his drive.

“Life goes on. You’ve still got to live, travel and visit,” he said while buying coffee and candy at a gas station. “You don’t want to go through the heart of the city. You can’t shut down the freeway for a couple of shootings.”

Authorities did not connect any of the 11 cases until a 62-year-old woman was killed last Tuesday while riding in a car driven by a friend. She was the only person hit in any of the shootings.

Many living and traveling along the stretch of roadway said they don’t intend to avoid the beltway that circles Columbus. Often there’s no better route.

Traffic hasn’t dropped visibly since news of the shootings broke, said Mr. Sparks, 53, who makes deliveries between two book-manufacturer warehouses. But he has noticed the extra squad cars, which make him feel safer.

“You don’t go through there now that you don’t see one sitting in the middle, or driving by,” Mr. Sparks said.

Authorities did not connect the cases until Gail Knisley’s death last week; many shootings were first reported afterward. The bullet that killed her came from the same gun as a bullet in one other shooting, but authorities won’t say which.

The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office has contacted law enforcement in other cities with similar unsolved shootings to compare the cases, but no matches have been made, Chief Deputy Steve Martin said. He would not say what other shootings investigators have examined.

Increased patrols in the area will continue, the deputy said. “We’re trying to provide security for people who are down there and have to travel that way to work every day.”

Ohio’s gun deer-hunting season opens Monday, so the public shouldn’t be alarmed at the sight of people with shotguns, the deputy said. He asked hunters to be alert to anything suspicious.

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