Missouri gunman blamed in fourth shooting death

Missouri investigators said Tuesday they have linked a man who killed himself after shooting three people to death in eastern Missouri to the shooting death of another victim, whose body was found after the rampage.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol said in a statement that unspecified DNA evidence and telephone records link gunman Nathan Fortner, 25, to the shooting death of 20-year-old Ericka Wade. Sgt. Al Nothum, a spokesman for the patrol, later declined to elaborate on the release, which said no one other than Fortner appears involved in the deaths.

“It was DNA evidence. That's about as specific as we can get,” Nothum told The Associated Press. “We normally don't get into that. (But) it pretty much puts him at the crime scene.”

Police said Fortner broke into a duplex apartment Nov. 30 in the 7,000-resident former mining town of Bonne Terre about 55 miles southwest of St. Louis and opened fire, killing his former girlfriend, 19-year-old Danielle Bement, along with Bement's mother, Christine Snider, 37, and Snider's live-in boyfriend, Derek Nash, 32. Snider and Nash lived in the duplex on a quiet, secluded cul de sac, and Bement had been staying there. Two boys at the home were unharmed.

Fortner turned a handgun on himself as police closed in.

The body of Wade, a Fortner acquaintance, was found later that day in an abandoned house near Bismarck in neighboring Washington County. Wade had been reported missing the previous night.

Fortner's sister, Angie Fortner, has said her brother was unemployed, bipolar and overcome with despair over the breakup with Danielle Bement. After the shootings, the couple's 18-month-old son was found unharmed in the same sport utility vehicle as his fatally injured mother, who police say died trying to protect the boy.

Angie Fortner said her brother left three Post-it notes at her house.

“We will never get back together and it hurts so bad I just can't take that,” read one. “I know you all are going to be very mad at me but I just can't take it anymore,” read another.

In the third note, Fortner expressed his innocence in a pending rape case against him. Fortner was free on bond on that 2008 rape charge and was scheduled to go on trial in April.

Fortner's criminal background included probation for 2003 charges of burglary, property damage and tampering with a motor vehicle. In 2006, he again got probation after pleading guilty to third-degree assault and disturbing the peace.