It can't happen this way—but it did. Conrad Malsom was sitting in a Las Vegas casino and happened to offer some of his leftover pizza to a guy hanging out nearby. That's when Malsom, an unemployed salesman, noticed that the stranger looked "strikingly familiar"—looked, he thought, just like Charles McCoy Jr., the alleged Ohio sniper and subject of a nationwide manhunt, whose picture Malsom had seen in USA Today. When the man got up to leave, Malsom, sure of his quarry, gathered up evidence-a glass and paper with doodling that might have fingerprints—placed them safely in a plastic bag, just like they do in CSI, and called police.

There was only one problem: The stranger wasn't the real McCoy, or even close. He was, it turned out, a real estate agent from Wisconsin named Mike Cholak.

Malsom, however, didn't know that and, heck-bent on his amateur sleuthing, began cruising the Vegas Strip in search of the man he had seen. By chance, he pulled into the parking lot of a Budget Suites hotel—and there before him sat a green Geo Metro, which he remembered was the car McCoy was supposedly driving. Astoundingly, the license plate checked out. "My heart skipped a beat," says Malsom, 60. This time police responded when he called, and McCoy, 28, a suspect in the series of 24 shootings that left one dead and unnerved the Columbus area, was soon in custody.

What will all his enterprise bring Malsom? The satisfaction of a job well done, gratitude from law enforcement—and maybe a share in the $60,000 reward for information leading to McCoy's capture. The day, sums up Malsom, was "almost paranormal."