The serial killer who terrorized a South Carolina community by shooting five people to death before police killed him on Monday was a career criminal paroled just two months ago, authorities said.
Patrick Burris, 41, was shot to death by officers investigating a burglary complaint at a home 50km from where the killing spree started on June 27. Bullets in his gun matched those that killed residents in and around Gaffney over six days last week, State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) Chief Reggie Lloyd said.
Investigators did not have an address for Burris. While evidence left no doubt he was the killer, they still had no idea why he did it.
“He was unpredictable. He was scary. He was weird,” SLED Deputy Director Neil Dolan said.
Burris had a long rap sheet filled with charges such as larceny, forgery and breaking and entering from states across the Southeast.
He had been paroled from a North Carolina prison in April after serving nearly eight years.
“Look at this,” Lloyd said, waiving a stapled copy of Burris’ criminal record. “This is like 25 pages. At some point the criminal justice system is going to need to explain why this suspect was out on the street.”
Gaffney farmer Sam Howell, 61, was among dozens of people from Cherokee County who came to the news conference where authorities identified Burris.
“My prayers were answered. He got what he deserved,” Howell said. “He scared the hell out of everyone. I guess we can feel better but we’ve lost some of our innocence.”
The mystery ended in Gastonia early on 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.