I-10 suspect's online behavior may provide clues to possible motive

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MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

Online posts by the man suspected in the I-10 shootings may provide clues about a possible motive in the case, according to a former Secret Service agent.

Leslie Allen Merritt Jr. shared news articles on Facebook about the series of shootings along the I-10 corridor in the days before his arrest, including one report by KPHO/KTVK.

Former police officer and Secret Service Agent Timothy Franklin, who now teaches in the ASU School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, says that behavior matches a common motive in serial shooting cases: a desire to gain notoriety.

“When he posted all the various different kinds of coverage that was going on about him, he was basically telling the world, ‘Hey look at this. Look what's going on.’ And in essence, he was saying, ‘Look at me, look what I'm doing,’” Franklin said.

[SLIDESHOW: Valley freeway shootings]

Franklin predicted earlier this week that law enforcement would hone in on a suspect between the ages of 18 and 24 years old. Merritt is 21.

He said targeting cars at random also suggests “thrill-seeking behavior.”

In court Saturday, Merritt denied involvement in the case, saying law enforcement had “the wrong guy.” He also said his weapon was at the pawn shop for the last two months, suggesting it could not have been used in the four shootings he’s accused of on Aug. 29 and 30.

But Franklin said investigators have access to a wide range of evidence at pawn shops.

“Anytime you go into a pawn shop, you're going to be videotaped. All of your actions are going to be digitally recorded,” he said, adding that pawn shops are required by state law to keep detailed records of when weapons are brought in or taken out, and by whom.

Mo Money Pawn Shop near Indian School and 12th St released a statement saying investigators from the Arizona Department of Public Safety contacted them Wednesday, asking about a certain caliber and make of handgun.

“Detectives and ballistic experts from AZ DPS examined several weapons and after further ballistics testing found the weapon they thought to be the match of the weapon used in several of the I-10 shootings,” the business said on Facebook.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Valley freeway shootings]

Merritt is being held on $1 million bail. Detectives say they've tied the 21-year-old to four of the 11 confirmed shootings that have occurred between Aug. 29 and Sept. 10.

Copyright 2015 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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