2010 Appomattox shootings
|Location||Appomattox, Virginia, United States|
|Date||January 17–20, 2010
c. 12:00 p.m. EST (UTC -5)
|Wikinews has related news: Eight killed in Virginia shooting, suspect surrenders|
The 2010 Appomattox shootings was a mass murder in Appomattox, Virginia that occurred on January 17 and 19, 2010. Christopher Bryan Speight shot his sister, her husband, and her son and daughter at their home, as well as four other people. He then escaped into a forest and shot at a police helicopter searching for him, but eventually surrendered himself to authorities. On February 15, 2013, Speight was sentenced to life imprisonment.
The incident began on January 19, when police were called to a road outside Appomattox on a report of a man who required medical attention. When police arrived, they were fired on by the suspect, Christopher Bryan Speight, who also fired on a police helicopter, forcing it to make an emergency landing. Shortly afterwards, the suspect fled to a wooded area, where a force of more than a hundred police officers surrounded him. No officers were injured in the attacks, though eight civilians were killed: three were killed on January 17 in a house co-owned by the gunman (his sister and the house's co-owner, Lauralee Sipe, and her husband, Dwayne Sipe, both 38, and their four-year-old son, Joshua), and two days later, four others died outside the house, with the last victim dying on the road. Police said that the victims were both men and women, and all were previously acquainted with the suspect. No motive was known, and Speight was believed to have acted alone.
He surrendered on January 20, near the same wooded area where police thought he had been surrounded. He was wearing a bulletproof vest, but without the high-powered rifle believed to be the weapon used. He approached a group of officers from outside the perimeter. When the officers noticed him standing with them, one officer, thinking he wasn't the gunman, told him to "Leave the area". Speight told the officers that they would all be dead if he wanted because he was the man they were looking for.
Police put a school and local businesses on lockdown, and advised residents to lock their houses and not go outside. Police were concerned that Speight's house had been rigged with explosives, and a bomb squad searched the building the morning after the attack. Explosives were found both inside and around the building, and were detonated safely. The house had sat unsecured for more than twelve hours as state police assumed local deputies had secured the house and vice versa.
- Lauralee Sipe, 38, Speight's sister
- Dwayne S. Sipe, 38, husband of Lauralee Sipe
- Joshua Sipe, 4, son of Lauralee and Dwayne Sipe
- Morgan L. Dobyns, 15, daughter of Lauralee Sipe from a previous marriage
- Emily A. Quarles, 15, friend of Morgan Dobyns
- Jonathan L. Quarles, 43, father of Emily Quarles
- Karen Quarles, 43, mother of Emily Quarles
- Ronald I. Scruggs, 16, boyfriend of Emily Quarles
On June 24, 2010, Appomattox County Circuit Court Judge Richard Blanton signed an order declaring Speight incompetent to stand trial. He was ordered sent to a state psychiatric hospital until such a time when he is able to assist his attorneys with his defense.
Two years after the shootings, police revealed that the three Sipes in the house were likely killed two days before fatally shooting the other five.
The case remained on hold for years as attorneys dealt with pretrial motions and awaited additional mental evaluations. According to investigators Speight told them that he had been ordered by an Egyptian goddess named Jennifer to shoot his family, because they were possessed by demons, while the others were killed, so they could not help his first victims, since Jennifer demanded that their bodies had to rot.
On February 15, 2013, Speight was sentenced in a plea deal to five life terms plus 18 years on three counts of capital murder, one count of attempted capital murder of a police officer (presumably because of the shots fired at the state police helicopter), and five firearms counts. The Commonwealth's Attorney Darrel Puckett said mental health experts for both the defense and the state had found Speight insane at the time, "rendering a death sentence highly unlikely" had the case gone to trial.
Speight is held in Wallens Ridge State Prison.
- Urbina, Ian; Emery, Theo (January 19, 2010). "Suspect Surrenders in Virginia Killing of 8 People". The New York Times. Archived from the original on January 23, 2010. Retrieved January 20, 2010.
- "Suspect in 8 Virginia killings surrenders". CNN. January 20, 2010. Archived from the original on January 23, 2010. Retrieved January 20, 2010.
- "Speight Gun Permit". Retrieved March 7, 2010.
- "Appomattox murders suspect declared incompetent for trial". WSLS. June 29, 2010. Retrieved June 29, 2010.
- Va. man pleads guilty to killing 8, shooting helicopter, The Virginian-Pilot (February 16, 2013)
- Va. man pleads guilty to killing 8, shooting helicopter
- Police Surround Gunman After He Kills 8 in Virginia, The New York Times (January 19, 2010)
- Suspect in 8 Va. deaths may have left explosives, The Washington Post (January 20, 2010)
- Uncle: No sign of trouble from Va. killing suspect, The Washington Post (January 21, 2010)