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Published: Friday, 3/19/2004

Sniper suspect will return to Ohio soon

BY JAMES DREW
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS The suspected serial highway gunman won t

fi ght his return to Columbus.

Charles A. McCoy, Jr., named Monday as the suspect in sniper

shootings along or near central Ohio highways and captured

two days later outside a Las Vegas motel, is to appear today in

a Las Vegas courtoom.

Mr. McCoy, 28, will waive extradition proceedings. He may

be transported to the Franklin County jail in Columbus by this

evening, said his attorney, Andrew Haney. Mr. McCoy could

appear in a Franklin County court on Saturday or Monday,

Mr. Haney added.

He made the announcement at a news conference in which

Mr. McCoy s sister, Amy Walton, said her family is in a living

nightmare.

The gunman struck 24 times since May, 2003, primarily targeting

motorists along I-270 south, but also shooting houses,

two school buses, a business, and an elementary school.

The most recent shooting was at 10:15 a.m. Feb. 14, at an

I-70 overpass in Licking County, which is 15 miles east of Columbus.

It was the fourth daylight shooting from an overpass over

12 days and witnesses got the best description of the gunman

and his car.

Referring to her brother as Charlie, Mrs. Walton yesterday

thanked Las Vegas resident Conrad Malsom.

Mr. Malsom, 60, found Mr. McCoy s car in a motel parking

lot hours after he said he had offered him a slice of pizza in the

Stardust Casino. Mr. Malsom said he recognized Mr. McCoy

from a picture in USA Today.

It was Mr. Malsom s tip that led Las Vegas police to arrest

the suspect as he returned to his Budget Suites motel room at

about 2:45 a.m. Wednesday.

Authorities have not announced whether Mr. Malsom will receive part or all of the $60,000 reward that Columbus-area businesses have offered for information leading to the arrest and indictment of the

gunman who killed 62-year-old Gail Knisley.

A friend was driving Mrs. Knisley to a doctor s appointment at

about 10 a.m. on Nov. 25, 2003, when a bullet ripped through

the driver s side door and struck Mrs. Knisley, a

passenger, in the side.

You are a friend to me for the rest of my life, Mrs. Walton said of Mr.

Malsom. You along with God answered my prayers because I

was imagining the worst.

Mr. Haney said he had talked on the phone with Mr. McCoy,

who is being held in the Las Vegas jail, four times on Wednesday

night for 20 to 25 minutes.

He would not discuss Mr. McCoy s mental state. Mr. McCoy s

mother fi led a missing persons report Monday and said her son

is a paranoid schizophrenic.

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O Brien said Mr. McCoy

could return to Ohio as early as today or as late as Tuesday.

So far, Mr. McCoy faces a felonious assault charge for fi ring

two shots from a 9mm handgun into a house at 901 Brown Road

in Columbus on Dec. 15.

Mr. O Brien said he is working with investigators to present evidence

to a grand jury that would result in additional charges.

Investigators have said a 9mm handgun they received from Mr.

McCoy s father was used in the nine shootings linked through

ballistics testings, including the shooting death of Mrs. Knisley,

who lived in Washington Court House. The other 15 shootings

were related by geography.

Chief Deputy Steve Martin of the Franklin County Sheriff s

Department didn t return calls yesterday seeking comment.

When asked on Wednesday if Mr. McCoy is the sole suspect,

Chief Deputy Martin replied: That s the person we are specifically interested in right now. But the national manhunt for

Mr. McCoy as the sole suspect puzzled Ohioan Charles Hall.

On the night of Dec. 14, 2003, Mr. Hall was watching TV on his

enclosed porch when he heard gunshots that hit the house next

door at 901 Brown Rd. Mr. Hall, 74, said he looked out the window to see the tail lights of a vehicle speeding away. He said a detective told

him that the gunshots which didn t strike anyone in the house

probably were from a vehicle traveling along Brown Road.

This week, Mr. Hall questioned if someone was with Mr. McCoy

the night shots were fi red into the house at 901 Brown Road.

It s weird because the car was going south and if he was driving

and shooting, he would have had to lean down and shoot up,

he said.

Mr. Haney declined to comment on whether Mr. McCoy has

made a statement to investigators since his capture.

A major question is whether the Franklin County prosecutor s

offi ce will seek to indict Mr. McCoy on murder or aggravated

murder charges in the death of Mrs. Knisley.

They may make the claim that he purposefully killed the

victim, said Joshua Dressler, a law professor at Ohio State

University. I think as a matter of reality that may not be true.

Either he has terrible aim or that killing was accidental.

But there are two levels of reality: objective reality and jury

reality. A jury might be inclined to believe the worst of somebody

who allegedly has been involved in multiple sniping incidents,

said Mr. Dressler, who assisted in the defense of Terry Nichols,

the Oklahoma City bombing conspirator.

James Drew can be reached at: jdrew@theblade.com or 614-221-0491



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