BILLINGS, Mont. -- Investigators believe a suspect in a series of coin shop slayings was recruited for the crimes by a Texan whoserobbery conviction and life sentence in a similar death were overturned.
Charles T. Sinclair is fighting extradition from Alaska to Montana to face charges he fatally shot two people with a .22-caliber handgun during a July coin shop robbery in Billings.
'The similarities are amazing' between that crime and a 1985 Pantego, Texas, coin shop murder believed masterminded by Forest L. Ethington, who has been living in Irvin, Texas, since his life sentence and aggravated robbery conviction were overturned by a Texas appeals court in 1988, a prosecutor said Monday.
David Chapman, assistant district attorney in Tarrant County, Texas, said an accomplice's testimony indicated Ethington 'had a standard plan for robbing coin shops' and became acquainted with Robert Rosberg, the Pantego coin shop and operator before he was three times in the head with a .22-caliber pistol.
Ethington was released after posting bond and must report to a state official every two weeks while the county appeals to reinstate his conviction, Chapman said.
'Ethington was always looking for someone he could recruit, someone cold-blooded to commit these type of crimes,' Chapman said.
FBI Special Agent Ken Marischen in Alaska acknowledged that agents 'are currently looking into' the connection between Ethington and Sinclair.
Sinclair is suspected of killing coin shop workers in Vacaville, Calif., in 1986, Spokane, Wash., in 1987, Kansas City, Mo., in 1988, Watertown, N.Y., last year and Vancouver, B.C., on June 19.
He also has been charged with wounding a coin shop owner at Murray, Utah, in May and is suspected in the disappearance of a California couple traveling in Washington state in August 1986.
Most of the coin shop crimes followed a similar pattern. The gunman became familiar with his victims, shot them in the head with a small-caliber hangun equipped with a homemade silencer and robbed the stores of rare coins.
Sinclair also is wanted in New Mexico on charges of embezzling $30,000 in state hunting and fishing license fees from a sporting goods store he and his wife operated at Hobbs, N.M.
Chapman acknowledged some of the coin shop crimes took place while Ethington was in prison but said Ethington 'certainly could have planned and supervised these types of crimes from inside the Texas Penitentiary.'
Texas officials also suspected Ethington in a 'startingly similar' Dallas coin shop killing in November 1982 but never charged him, Chapman said.