Man Arrested Near Va. Tech In Two Killings

By Michael D. Shear and Susan Kinzie
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, August 22, 2006

BLACKSBURG, Va., Aug. 21 -- A hunt for an escaped inmate accused of killing a sheriff's deputy and a security guard ended with his capture Monday at Virginia Tech, where students were told to stay in their rooms, and classes were canceled on the first day of school.

William C. Morva, 24, described by state and local law enforcement officials as an "anti-government survivalist," was found hiding shirtless and shoeless in a briar patch near campus athletic fields and less than 150 yards from where he is alleged to have shot and killed a popular and highly decorated sheriff's deputy Monday morning.

His capture came hours after edgy police officers interrupted what started as a placid first day of school for the 32,000 students and staff at Virginia Tech. The campus was shut down, and students were sent into locked-down dorms.

Little information was provided, and rumors swirled about a gunman on the loose as hundreds of officers -- with machine guns and dogs and supported by helicopters -- searched the campus and surrounding area. Students were confined to their rooms and other school buildings while their parents watched the scene play out on national television.

"A woman came screaming and yelling, 'Don't go down the stairs,' " as students left class, recalled Shivani Handa, 17, a freshman from Centreville, who said she was just getting over the anxiety of going to her first college class when she heard about the gunman. No one knew what was going on, Handa said, and scores of students waited in a study area linking a classroom building and the library. "We were just stuck there," Handa said.

Authorities said the search began Sunday morning at Montgomery County Regional Hospital in southwestern Virginia after Morva overpowered a deputy, seized his gun and killed an unarmed hospital security guard, Derrick McFarland, 26, then disappeared into the night.

Sheriff Tommy Whitt declined to describe how Morva escaped but said prisoners are usually shackled on the ankles and handcuffed to chains around their waists when taken to the public hospital. News reports said Morva, who had been in jail awaiting trial in an attempted robbery of a local deli, had complained of a sprained ankle.

"We'd be foolish not to look at our procedures," Whitt said.

Law enforcement officers searched through the night, encountering Morva about 7 a.m. Monday on Huckleberry Trail, which connects the campus to the nearby town of Christiansburg. There, authorities said, Morva shot Cpl. Eric Sutphin, 40, a sheriff's deputy from Virginia's Montgomery County on bike patrol. Sutphin had been awarded the state's medal of valor in 2004 by then-Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) for his role in capturing a suspect in the killing of a police officer. Sutphin was shot twice in that incident.

Local authorities, who appeared devastated by Sutphin's death, declined to describe the circumstances of his shooting. They said doing so could compromise the case against Morva, who has been charged with capital murder, firearms violations, felony escape and assaulting an officer.

"We lost two very good people," Montgomery County Commonwealth's Attorney Bradley W. Finch told reporters as he announced the charges against Morva. "We now feel that we can grieve for that fallen officer. After that, we will pursue justice against the perpetrator."

Virginia Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell (R) said Morva "essentially ambushed" Sutphin on the bike trail.


CONTINUED     1        >

© 2006 The Washington Post Company