Mar 20, 2024 - History

The Ohio highway sniper was caught 20 years ago this week

Former Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien is seen answering reporters' questions.

Former Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien speaks to reporters during the highway sniper trial in 2004. Photo: Shaun Heasley/Getty Images

Twenty years ago this week, the Ohio highway sniper was arrested in Las Vegas ā€” ending a lengthy shooting spree that left one dead and the region paralyzed with fear.

Flashback: Charles McCoy spent months firing at moving cars from bridges overlooking some of the area's busiest highways, as well as at several homes and an elementary school.

  • In total, two dozen shootings were reported across Central Ohio between May 2003 and February 2004, per news archives from the Dispatch, which won an award for its sniper coverage.
  • Gail Knisely, 62, of Washington Court House, was shot and killed while riding in a car on I-270.

What they're saying: "Everywhere I went, friends, family, relatives would ask me: 'Should I change my route of travel? Should I change my behavior?' They were concerned that they might be next," said chief deputy Rick Minerd of the Franklin County Sheriff's Office in a video retrospective.

  • Minerd reflected on the massive collaboration between local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to investigate thousands of tips.
  • It was tip No. 5,444 that led police to McCoy, a 28-year-old Grove City native who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

What happened: McCoy, who faced the death penalty, initially pleaded not guilty due to insanity.

  • After the first trial ended in a hung jury, he pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and other charges.
  • He was sentenced to 27 years in prison and is eligible for release in 2031.

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