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Shooting suspect reported missing, suicidal

Police were hunting for a 28-year-old man who they believe may be the elusive gunman linked to two dozen highway shootings that have terrorized area motorists for months.

The Franklin County Sheriff's Office said the suspect, Charles A. McCoy Jr., lived within miles of where the gunman's bullets killed a passenger, shattered windshields, dented school buses and drilled into homes and a school. An alert issued to law enforcement officials says the suspect in a series of highway shootings has had suicidal or homicidal tendencies. Clark County Sheriff Gene Kelly says Tuesday his office received an alert Monday night about McCoy. In another development, the suspect's mother reported him missing Monday. Ardith McCoy says in a missing-persons report that she last saw her son, Charles A- McCoy Junior, on Friday. She says her son was upset about possibly moving from the area and left to go to a video game-themed restaurant in Columbus. She says he withdrew about $600 from his bank account. Meanwhile, a neighbor of a man suspected of being the highway sniper in the Columbus area says she last saw him Monday. Janet Taylor says she saw McCoy leave about 11 a-m Monday after putting a couple of boxes in the trunk of a different car than what authorities have identified on TV. She says it was a silver-gray, late 1980s General Motors car. The sheriff's office says it is looking for a four-door, dark green 1999 Geo Metro with a black hood. The Ohio license tag is CGV7387. Taylor says she always felt that McCoy was strange, saying he yelled at her kids and watched her while she washed dishes. At Monday's news conference, Franklin County chief deputy Steve Martin said, "The key issue for us right now is to locate this guy. We believe he bought another gun."

In the three most recent shootings, witnesses described seeing someone aiming at them while standing next to a car. Their descriptions of the suspect and car were similar to information the sheriff's office released Monday.

The suspect is a 5-foot-8, 185-pound white male with brown hair and green eyes, the sheriff's office said. "I don't know if he's still local," Martin said. "We don't have any reason to believe he's not."

Since May, two dozen sniper shootings have targeted vehicles and buildings around Interstate 270, which circles Columbus, and other highways. Most of the shootings have occurred since October; the latest was on Feb. 14.

Martin would not say what evidence led investigators to McCoy.

From the beginning, Martin has said investigators believe the shooter is familiar with the area around I-270. Although the last four shootings were on other highways, most of those that occurred through January were within about a 10-mile southern stretch of the interstate.

Half a mile north of that stretch, neighbors gathered in disbelief Monday on the Columbus street where McCoy lived with his mother.

"I even drove other ways to avoid being in the area where most of the shootings happened, and now I find out that the suspect lives right across the street from me," said Nicole Sewald, 28, whose son attends an elementary school struck one night by the shooter.

Bullets struck homes, school buses, vans, cars, delivery trucks and tractor-trailers. The only person hit, Gail Knisley, 62, was fatally wounded Nov. 25 while riding in a car on I-270.

Lab tests showed that bullets from nine of the shootings were fired from the same gun. The others were linked by location and circumstance.

The warrant issued Monday charges McCoy with firing two rounds from a 9 mm handgun into an occupied residence near I-270. Authorities had not previously identified the type of gun used in the shootings. Two bullet holes were found on the front of the house and a bullet was found in a bathtub. No one answered the phone there late Monday.

Several neighbors said they recognized McCoy from a photo released by investigators, although they barely knew him. A light was on in the McCoys' split-level house but the curtains were drawn and no one answered the door. A real estate agent briefly drove up to remove a "for sale" sign from in front of the house.

"I think my husband said once that they were having trouble selling the house because the shootings in the area," resident Nicole Sewald said.

Edward Cable, whose minivan was hit by a bullet Nov. 21 as he was driving on a road near Interstate 270, said by telephone he was glad to hear a suspect was identified. "I just hope they find him soon, and I wish it hadn't taken so long," the retired prison guard said. "If they do have concrete evidence that this guy was the one who did it, I hope they pick him up before someone else is shot."