CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Authorities probing three fatal shootings in five days in the Charleston area have received 100 leads and are questioning 100 suspects, Kanawha County Sheriff David Tucker said.
During a news conference, Tucker backed away from definitively declaring the shootings the work of one person, saying, "We cannot excuse anything. ... We don't want to create tunnel vision, because you get into that stage, it's hard to get an investigator out of it."
No arrests have been made, nor is anyone in custody, Tucker said.
"Every lead is being covered. The leads that we've got are very solid," Tucker said. "I'd say we're close, but as an investigator, you've got to be patient."
Police have been wondering if they're investigating a copycat of last year's sniper attacks in and around Washington, D.C.
Montgomery County, Md., Police have offered West Virginia authorities advice on the tactics and techniques used in the Washington-area investigation, said Derek Baliles, a Montgomery County police spokesman.
"It's eerie to hear [West Virginia police] saying the same things we said last October," Baliles said.
Police also are looking for a dark color or maroon full-size pickup, possibly a Ford F-150. Tucker backtracked from previous descriptions of the driver as a large white male, saying darkness may have obscured eyewitness views.
Monday evening state and federal authorities released a "wanted" poster with a description of the driver and the pickup including a hot line for tips.
Tucker cautioned residents to be vigilant and take precautions when shopping or getting gasoline late at night.
"Know your surroundings," he advised, "but don't stop what you're doing."
Tucker also asked the shooter to contact his department.
"If there is a problem, let's talk about it," Tucker said. "We have to reach out and touch this individual."
The sheriff's department has received hundreds of tips and calls but Tucker declined to discuss specific information. Chief Deputy Phil Morris has given out his private office number, 304-357-0296, and has established an e-mail address for electronic tips.
"We treat them all the same," Pauley said. "Every tip could lead to solving the case."
On Monday, two victims from last week's sniper attacks were buried in private ceremonies.
Jeanie Patton, 31, and Okey Meadows Jr., 26, both of Campbells Creek, were killed 90 minutes and 10 miles apart Thursday night outside rural convenience stores, less than 20 miles from Charleston.
Their deaths came four days after Gary Carrier Jr., 44, of South Charleston, was fatally shot while talking on a pay telephone outside a Charleston Go-Mart.
"Senseless. I mean, what's the reason? ... I don't understand the times we're living," the Rev. Bucky Hanson said following Patton's funeral.
All three shootings were at night from distances of 30 yards to 60 yards. Each victim was shot in the neck or head by a small caliber rifle. Police have not released the caliber of the weapon, or if the shots were fired from the same weapon.
Tucker said he has yet to link the three victims.
A task force of local, state and federal authorities set up headquarters over the weekend at the West Virginia National Guard Armory. It is similar to the Maryland task force that eventually arrested suspects John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo, who have been linked to 20 shootings, including 13 killings, in Virginia, Maryland, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, and Washington, D.C.
And, a group of sheriff's deputies rode their bicycles through Campbells Creek Monday to alleviate the fears of the "cautious and concerned" community, Tucker said.
Meanwhile, residents went about their business Monday, trying to regain a sense of normalcy, and Tucker said he didn't think convenience stores should close at midnight.
Clendenin resident Bud Roe said he always knew West Virginia was not immune to crime.
"It's like everywhere else," Roe said. "You never know what goes through the mind of someone like that."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.