Sunday, March 21, 2004

Alleged shooter back in Ohio

Relative says he has had mental problems

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COLUMBUS - In recent months, suspected highway sniper Charles McCoy Jr. lived with his mother, did not work, played video games and collected an allowance, his aunt said.

Rosanna Osborne said her nephew was devastated by his parents' 2002 divorce, saying the split might be what "pushed him over the edge."

"His life is shot," said Osborne, 45, drinking coffee and smoking a cigarette at a relative's Columbus-area home on Friday. "We know he went off the deep end. He needed more help than what the medication was giving him."

McCoy, 28, is suspected of setting the Columbus area on edge for months, spraying bullets that struck a school, a home and vehicles. Gail Knisley, 62, of Washington Court House, was killed in one shooting.

McCoy arrived at the Franklin County jail at 5 p.m. Saturday after being flown under tight security from Las Vegas, where an observant and curious gambler spotted him early Wednesday and called police.

McCoy has a 1:30 p.m. Monday hearing in Franklin County Municipal Courton a felonious assault charge in the Dec. 15 shooting of an occupied home. No one was hurt.

McCoy has not been charged in the other 23 highway shootings, but a grand jury is expected to review the case for additional charges.

In some of the most extensive comments from his family, Osborne said McCoy was raised under the tight grip of his father, Charles "Chuck" McCoy Sr. The elder McCoy owned guns and demanded that relatives call his son "Charles," not "Chuckie."

"He walked the fine line for Chuck," she said of her nephew. "His father still treats him like a kid ... I don't think there was much love. He didn't even get to go to parties. I think his father just raised him too strict and Chuckie just snapped."

McCoy Sr. did not respond to repeated requests for interviews. A note taped to the front door of his Groveport home reads, "We do not want to speak to the media."

McCoy's mother also has not publicly commented about her son's arrest or responded to interview requests.

Amy Walton, McCoy's sister, urged her brother to call home when authorities were looking for him last week. "My brother is probably one of the sweetest people I have ever known," she said Wednesday on Good Morning America. "There is nothing he wouldn't do for you."

Walton hasn't commented about her father's role in the investigation, but Osborne said her older brother first contacted Ohio authorities March 12 about his son's connection to the shootings. He gave police at least three guns, all 9mm Berettas, on March 13. By March 15, authorities had matched one of the guns to one of the highway shootings.

Police alerted national and local media outlets that they were looking for McCoy. And within two days, Las Vegas gambler Conrad Malsom spotted McCoy reading a newspaper article about himself in the Stardust casino. Malsom repeatedly called police. And by 2:45 a.m. Wednesday, police arrested McCoy in the parking lot of a Las Vegas hotel and took his car.

McCoy has been in jail since.

His aunt is convinced as she has watched the events unfold in the last week that her nephew never meant to harm anyone. "Chuckie would have got one of his father's rifles with scopes on it if he wanted to hurt someone." Osborne said.

She thinks someone "coached" her nephew to drive to Las Vegas, noting that the shootings occurred just minutes from his parents' homes and he wouldn't think to travel so far on his own.

"He wouldn't have done that on his own," she said. "I can't believe he found the place."

Now, she hopes her nephew gets the medical treatment he needs and isn't just incarcerated. "I hope he gets help and puts it behind him where he can live a normal life,'' she said, "and not be in prison the rest of his life."



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