Va. rampage victims include suspect’s relatives
APPOMATTOX, Va (AP) – The victims of a gunman’s violent rampage in central Virginia included the suspect’s sister and brother-in-law, as well as two other adults, three teenagers and a 4-year-old boy, according to authorities who charged the alleged shooter with first-degree murder on Wednesday.
Christopher Bryan Speight, a 39-year-old security guard, surrendered to police at daybreak after leading investigators on an 18-hour manhunt following the slayings at a house in rural central Virginia where deputies found a mortally wounded man and seven bodies.
A bomb squad discovered a multitude of explosives at Speight’s home, and crews were detonating the devices into the night.
Speight had no weapons when he surrendered. He was wearing a bulletproof vest over a black fleece jacket, camouflage pants and mud-caked boots. Neither the sheriff nor a state police spokeswoman would disclose what Speight said when he gave up.
Speight was charged with one count of first-degree murder, but other charges are likely. He’s being held at a jail in Lynchburg.
The suspect co-owned and lived in the home where some of the bodies were found Tuesday. David Anderson, co-owner of the Sunshine Market grocery store in Lynchburg, where Speight sometimes provided security, said Speight was worried that his sister and brother-in-law, wanted to kick him out of the house. The two recently moved in with Speight, he said.
Speight’s mother deeded the house to Speight and his sister in 2006, shortly before she died of brain cancer. His mother’s obituary listed the daughter as Lauralee Sipe and her husband as Dewayne Sipe.
State police identified the Sipes, both 38, as two of the victims, along with 16-year-old Ronald Scruggs; 15-year-old Emily Quarles; 43-year-old Karen and Jonathan Quarles; 15-year-old Morgan Dobyns; and 4-year-old Joshua Sipe.
Police say Speight knew all the victims, but they did not outline the victims’ relationships or discuss a motive. No court date has been set.
Their bodies are at the state medical examiner’s office in Roanoke, where their causes of death will be determined. Investigators wouldn’t say what type of weapon was used in the rampage.
In nearby Lynchburg late Wednesday, about 100 people attended an impromptu prayer gathering at Thomas Terrace Baptist Church, where friends described Scruggs as a class clown and Emily Quarles as outgoing and friendly.
Youth minister Walt Davis said the community would need strength in the coming days and weeks. Adults were on hand for young people who wanted to talk or needed comforting.
Courtney Crews, 14, said she and Emily Quarles attended the same middle school but different high schools. They kept in touch by texting and talking on the phone.
“She was just a really good friend,” Crews said, sobbing. “She was never mean to anybody.”
Neighbor Monte W. Mays said Speight was a good neighbor. They waved as they passed each other on the road and sent their dogs out to play with one another.
“All the dealings I’ve ever had with him have been cordial and polite,” said Mays, the county’s retired commissioner of accounts. “We got along fine.”
Speight had long been a gun enthusiast and enjoyed target shooting at a range on his property, Mays said. But the shooting recently became a daily occurrence, with Speight firing what Mays said were high-powered rifles.
“Then we noticed he was doing it at nighttime,” and the gunfire started going deeper into the woods, Mays said.
Mays said the entire community is devastated and wondering what triggered the slayings.
“The only one who’s going to know now is Chris,” he said.
Anderson, the store co-owner, said Speight never wanted to talk about his problems, but he “constantly paced the floor,” Anderson said. “I thought he was going to wear a trench in it.”
Clarence Reynolds, who also works at the market, said he recently discussed a personal family problem with Speight, and Speight told him “don’t let your emotions get the best of you.”
Reynolds said Speight was not married and had no children.
Police were alerted to the bloodbath when they found the wounded man on the side of a road. Then sheriff’s deputies discovered seven more bodies – three inside the house and four just outside.
When officers converged on the area, the suspected shooter fired at a state police helicopter, rupturing its gas tank and forcing it to land.
The shots revealed his location, and more than 100 police swarmed into the woods until Speight gave up the following morning.
Police said Speight appeared to have had weapons training, but there was no information suggesting he had served in the military.
Speight’s uncle, Jack Giglio of Tampa, Fla., told The Associated Press that his nephew was a deer hunter, but as far as he knew Speight did not have any specialized weapons training. Giglio said he had not seen Speight since 2006, when both attended the funeral for Speight’s mother.
“We’re shocked, of course,” Giglio said. “I’m not aware of any problems with him. It’s kind of out of the blue. We’re still trying to pick up facts, too.”
Appomattox County court records show a concealed weapons permit was issued to a Christopher Bryan Speight three times between 1999 and last year.
The county’s four schools remained closed for the day, the high school flag at half-staff. Administrators planned to bring in grief counselors. The school system posted a notice on its Web site late Wednesday announcing a two-hour delay Thursday morning so staff would have time to “prepare to talk with their students about the tragedy.”
Associated Press writers Larry O’Dell and Zinie Chen Sampson in Appomattox, Tim Huber in Charleston, W.Va., and Harry R. Weber in Atlanta contributed to this report.