Skip to comments.Manhunt's end a coincidence (Ohio sniper McCoy's arrest in Las Vegas)
Posted on 03/21/2004 11:27:28 PM PST by Peace4EarthNow
Vegas pizza recipient wasn't suspect after all
By Journal Sentinel staff and wire services
The unlikely end to a nationwide manhunt for a suspect in a series of Ohio freeway sniper shootings was an illusion that hid a truth, a nearly magical coincidence befitting its setting - Las Vegas, Nev.
A Wisconsin native who led authorities to the suspect told reporters he positively identified Charles A. McCoy Jr. at the Stardust casino when he offered some leftover pizza Tuesday to a young man reading a newspaper.
But a Kenosha real estate broker said Friday that he was the man to whom unemployed salesman Robert Conrad Malsom offered the pepperoni pizza, not McCoy.
Mike Cholak said he was in Las Vegas for a Realtors conference and was sitting in the casino's sports book area when Malsom approached him and mistakenly surmised he was the widely sought sniper suspect.
Then Malsom's luck took a turn of Powerball-winning proportions. Convinced he was on McCoy's trail, he searched the area until he spotted a green car with Ohio license plates in the parking lot of a nearby motel.
Incredibly, the car belonged to McCoy, suspected in as many as 24 highway shootings.
News of the capture, viewed the next morning on a hotel television, was downright eerie, Cholak, 34, said.
"There's this Conrad guy from the Stardust sports book on TV talking about how he helped catch the sniper," he said.
"I started hollering at Mike," said Cholak, referring to co-worker Mike Zacker, who also was in Las Vegas for the conference. "Our jaws just dropped."
"I knew instantly it was the guy police were looking for in Ohio," Malsom told reporters Wednesday. "But I went back a little later to see if he liked the pizza to get another look at him. He shook my hand and thanked me. I knew by the eyes it was him."
Cholak's version of the encounter:
"Conrad said, 'Me and a friend ordered a large pizza, and we can't eat it all. Would you like what's left?' " Cholak said in a phone interview Friday.
"Later, the guy comes back and says, 'My name's Conrad. How did you like the pizza?' "
Malsom said he later collected items left on the table where Cholak was sitting in an attempt to get fingerprints. He then spent hours contacting law enforcement agencies in Nevada and Ohio and was questioned by the FBI about his McCoy sighting for about 90 minutes. He later began searching the Strip and spotted McCoy's car around 11:30 p.m.
Malsom dialed 911, and investigators took McCoy into custody a short time later.
McCoy, 28, is expected to be flown back to Columbus tonight with members of the task force that investigated the 24 shootings, including one Nov. 25 in which 62-year-old Gail Knisley was killed. McCoy waived extradition Friday at a hearing in Las Vegas, clearing the way for him to be prosecuted in Ohio.
Malsom told KLAS-TV (Channel 8) in Las Vegas that the man he met in the casino wore a black "Oakley" T-shirt similar to the one Cholak was wearing Tuesday. A mug shot taken after McCoy's arrest shows McCoy in a white T-shirt.
"It doesn't appear (Malsom) met our guy, but he ended up finding that car, and we got our man, so that's what matters," a task force investigator told reporters.
Cholak agrees, but at the same time said he felt the true story should get out.
Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction.
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