‘Horrific and unprecedented’: Man charged in killing spree spanning 2 states

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ELIZABETH, NJ -- Detectives in two states say they've now arrested a suspected serial killer who, in three separate attacks, shot more than a half dozen people. The arrest happened in Pennsylvania, where Todd West is charged with murder, but he's accused of even more homicides, including that of his cousin in Elizabeth, N.J.

West's takedown by Pennsylvania police has some residents and police investigators in New Jersey breathing a sigh of relief.

"I'm just glad they caught the guy," said a resident of the South side of Elizabeth when he learned of West's arrest.

On Sixth Street, there's a large memorial for Jamil Payne, 29. He was gunned down on the corner of Sixth Street and South Park on June 25, the same day three other people in Elizabeth were victims of gun violence. Two of them perished. Prosecutors and police say it was all carried out by West.

"It is horrific," said Grace Park, the acting Union County prosecutor. "I don't know how to define 'mass killer.' We have never seen one individual ever commit this type of shooting spree, murder spree in so short a time."

Investigators said that on June 25, West allegedly shot a handful of people, beginning with Dennis Vega early in the morning. Vega died. That night, at about 9:30 p.m., West allegedly shot and killed Jamil Payne. An hour after that, he allegedly killed Kelvin Nelson.  Ten minutes later, detectives said, West allegedly shot another man -- Richard Marte -- who survived.

Marte is hoped to be a resource in the prosecution of West, who is currently in custody in eastern Pennsylvania. There, in Allentown and Easton, there were three homicides this past weekend, for which West has been arrested. Detectives there are investigating whether some or all of the fatal shootings there were randomly carried out by West.

Once police in Pennsylvania collared  West, investigators in Elizabeth said, they figured out that he was allegedly behind the murder of his cousin, Michael Thompkins, in their city on May 18.

Detectives said West allegedly carried out a few robberies at knife point in eastern Pennsylvania after the homicides. Two suspected accomplices were arrested with West in Pennsylvania. Detectives in Elizabeth are probing to see if he had accomplices there, as well.

Prosecutors in New Jersey, meanwhile, await him being brought eventually to Elizabeth to face a judge for a first court appearance.

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