Monday, July 6, 2009


GASTONIA, N.C. — South Carolina authorities are on the scene of a fatal North Carolina shooting Monday, about 30 miles from a city terrorized by a serial killer blamed for five deaths.

South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division spokeswoman Jennifer Timmons said agents traveled to Gastonia after a man suspected of trying to burglarize a home was shot to death by police around 3 a.m.

Ms. Timmons couldn’t confirm whether the shooting was linked to the slayings last week near Gaffney, S.C.

The serial-killer suspect is believed to be driving a champagne-colored Ford SUV, and the same make and color vehicle was at the North Carolina shooting.

The slain man first gave a fake name to officers. Then he 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 man’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 neighbors who called, Mike and Terri Valentine, were on edge with the news a serial killer was shooting victims a short drive away.

They watched two people who sometimes 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, Mr. Valentine said.

When officers went inside the home, Mrs. 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 occurred in a 10-mile area near Gaffney 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 whether the killer knew any of the victims or whether anything linked the five people killed.

“He’s just a cold-blooded murderer,” Sheriff 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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