- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 7, 2009

GASTONIA, N.C. (AP) — A man matching the description of a suspected serial killer was shot to death by North Carolina police early Monday, witnesses said, and South Carolina authorities were on the scene investigating.

Authorities didn’t immediately say if the man killed was linked to five deaths in South Carolina last week, but a sport utility vehicle similar to the one police think the serial killer may have been driving was at the scene of the North Carolina shooting.

South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division spokeswoman Jennifer Timmons said agents traveled to Gastonia after a burglary suspect was shot about 3 a.m. The shooting happened about 30 miles north of Gaffney, S.C., a city terrorized by a suspected serial killer.

The slain man first gave a fake name to officers and then pulled a gun on them when they tried to arrest him on a warrant from Lincoln County, N.C., authorities said.

The suspect was killed and an officer was shot in the foot, but is expected to recover, police said. The suspect’s name has not been released.

Police came to the home near Gastonia after getting a call about a suspicious SUV pulling into a usually vacant home. The SUV matched the champagne-colored Ford police have said the suspected serial killer might have been driving.

The neighbors who called police, Mike and Terri Valentine, were on edge because Gaffney was just a short drive away.

They watched two people that sometime visit the home get out of the vehicle, followed by a third man who matched the description authorities have given for the serial killer. The man appeared to be very intoxicated, Mike Valentine said.

When officers went inside the home, Terri Valentine said she heard someone yell “put it down” and heard a gunshot.

Then “bam, bam, bam, bam. Next thing I know, all of Gaston County was here,” she said.

Gaston County police said the other two people were in custody, but didn’t indicate whether they were facing any charges.

The killing spree in Gaffney occurred in a 10-mile area over six days. A peach farmer was killed June 27, an 83-year-old woman and her daughter were found bound and shot four days later and the next day a father and his teen daughter were shot in their family’s furniture store.

People throughout the northwestern South Carolina region have armed themselves, locked their doors and reported anything suspicious.

Cherokee County Sheriff Bill Blanton has said physical evidence linked the five killings in this 54,000-person county known for mills and peach orchards, but he has not elaborated.

Investigators won’t give a motive for the killings. They said they haven’t determined if the killer knew any of the victims or whether anything linked the five people killed.

“He’s just a cold-blooded murderer,” Blanton told ABC’s “Good Morning America on Monday. “He’s ruined the lives of these three families and has torn our community up. But folks are dealing with it and dealing with it well.”

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