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Ohio Closing Freeway in Shootings Probe

December 6, 2003

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) _ A task force investigating 14 highway shootings will have unfettered access to most of the crime scenes when a 23-mile southern half of the Interstate 270 beltway closes Saturday evening.

The closure comes a day after authorities linked two more shootings to the series. One of those shots, which hit a house, came from the same gun used in four other shootings, including the only fatality.

The task force led by the Franklin County Sheriff’s office requested the closure from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., and state transportation officials and local law enforcement agencies were to shut down ramps as soon as 4 p.m., said Michelle May, an Ohio Department of Transportation spokeswoman.

The task force did not give a reason, and Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Steve Martin would not take phone calls Saturday morning.

Traffic on I-70 approaching Columbus from the west and east will have to stay on that freeway through downtown or loop around on the north side of the beltway. Trucks carrying hazardous materials must use northern I-270. Delays are expected, May said.

Investigators have told the state their work will focus on I-270 between state Route 62 and U.S. 23, May said. They have indicated that they will need no more than an hour, so it’s possible the freeway could reopen before 7 p.m., she said.

The closure is longer than the area investigators are targeting because it was easier to divert traffic to the major routes than the surface roads on the smaller stretch, May said.

``It obviously involves a lot of manpower and equipment,″ she said.

The shootings around a seven-mile stretch of I-270 began in May but have happened mainly in the past two months. Authorities say they have gotten more than 1,000 tips from the public.

The two latest shootings were the first since three on Nov. 25, when 62-year-old Gail Knisley was killed as she rode in a car on I-270.

``Investigators now know the person or persons has consciously decided to continue with the same activity which unfortunately resulted in the death of Mrs. Knisley,″ Martin said Friday.

On Nov. 30, a woman heard a thud as she drove on Interstate 270 and noticed a bullet hole when she got home, Martin said. She notified city police Tuesday.

In the other shooting, Emma Fader, 56, found a bullet hole in the front of her house about a quarter-mile from the highway and a bullet on her living room floor. Fade made the discovery Monday afternoon following a weekend away, she said.

``I don’t believe I was a target,″ she said.

She and her son, who is temporarily living in the rental house with his mother, both said the shooting has them spooked.

``I hope this is the end of it,″ said Donald Fitch, 38. ``It’s been nerve-racking.″

While authorities haven’t commented on the type of weapon used, Fitch said a police officer from suburban Obetz told him the shot must have come from a high-powered rifle.

``A 12-gauge or a handgun wouldn’t have made it,″ Fitch said.

He said investigators from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives told him they were trying to determine the bullet’s path on Saturday.

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