Investigators have not figured out how the victims are linked or if they knew the man who shot them. So far, all they have is a sketch of a suspect and a possible getaway vehicle, said Cherokee County Sheriff Bill Blanton.
"There's no evidence there is a hit list," Blanton said. "There's no evidence he knows the victims. There's no evidence the victims are connected."
But plenty of evidence links the killings, said Blanton, who would not provide details.
"Yes, we have a serial killer," he said at a news conference.
The latest victims were found in their family's small furniture and appliance shop near downtown Gaffney around closing time Thursday. Stephen Tyler, 45, was killed, and his 15-year-old daughter was shot and seriously injured. Tyler's wife, his older daughter and an employee found them in Tyler Home Center, County Coroner Dennis Fowler said.
The latest killing happened one day and about seven miles from where family members found the bodies of 83-year-old Hazel Linder and her 50-year-old daughter, Gena Linder Parker, bound and shot in Linder's home. Blanton would not say if Tyler and his daughter were also bound.
The killing spree began last Saturday about 10 miles from Tyler Home Center. Peach farmer Kline Cash, 63, was found shot in his living room. Investigators said he appeared to have been robbed, but they haven't determined if anything was taken in the latest killings.
The shootings have prompted fear in Cherokee County, 50 miles south of Charlotte, N.C., and home to about 54,000 people. The county had just six homicides in all of 2008, and that was double the number reported the year before.
Residents have "their guard up and their gun handy," said state Sen. Harvey Peeler, R-Gaffney, who recalled the area being terrorized once before, in the 1960s, by a serial killer dubbed the Gaffney Strangler who murdered several women before he was caught.
"There is no greater fear than the fear of the unknown and nobody knows. You can cut the tension with a knife," Peeler said. "People are locking their doors, even in broad daylight."
The latest shootings took place less than a half-mile from the sheriff's office, the command center where at least 30 investigators were already working on the case. Blanton said a profiler has brought up the possibility that Tyler and his daughter were shot to taunt investigators, but he said his only concern is solving the case.
"We had a 15-year-old girl shot; he killed an 83-year-old woman. The good people of this community don't deserve that. And it doesn't look like he shows much concern or remorse," Blanton said.
The sheriff reminded people they have a right to protect themselves and asked them to call 911 to report anything suspicious. He also advised salesmen and others to avoid knocking on strangers' doors with so many on heightened alert.
"People are going to start shooting at shadows," Blanton said.
Be careful, peeps.