GAFFNEY, S.C. - A man suspected of killing five people and terrorizing a South Carolina community was shot to death Monday by police investigating a burglary complaint at a home 30 miles away.
Ballistics tests on a gun and bullets found with the man in Gastonia, N.C., match those used in a weeklong killing spree in and around Gaffney, said State Law Enforcement Deputy Director Neil Dolan.
"We have him. He's our serial killer," Dolan said Monday night.
Authorities did not release the man's name, but said he has had several encounters with law enforcement over the years.
Dolan said the physical evidence leaves no doubt the slain suspect was the person who shot five people to death over six days. But investigators still have no idea why he started the killing spree June 27.
"He was unpredictable. He was scary. He was weird," Dolan said.
The case came to an end in Gastonia early Monday after a couple called police to report a suspicious sport utility vehicle in their neighborhood.
Mike and Terri Valentine were on edge because the Gaffney serial killer was just a short drive away.
They watched two people who sometimes visit the neighboring home get out of the vehicle, followed by a third man who matched the description of the killer: tall, heavyset, unshaven and wearing a baseball cap. The man appeared to be very drunk, Mike Valentine said.
When officers went inside, 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 did not indicate whether they were facing charges.
The Gaffney killings happened 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.
SLED Chief Reggie Lloyd said the investigation isn't over, and Cherokee County Sheriff Bill Blanton said investigators will trace the suspect's recent activities and trying to figure out if he has killed other people in other places.
Blanton said he hopes the arrest calms the fears of 54,000 people in the county 50 miles west of Charlotte, N.C., known for its peach orchards and mills.
"We feel the victims' pain," Blanton said. "This isn't over. We're just changing gears."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.