- The Washington Times - Friday, March 14, 2008

ABINGDON, Va. (AP) — A jury recommended death for a man convicted of capital murder in the slayings of a hospital security guard and a sheriff’s deputy.

The Washington County Circuit Court jury deliberated for three hours before determining yesterday that William Morva should die for the August 2006 killings in Montgomery County. The jurors on Tuesday had found him guilty of capital murder.

Morva, 26, smiled slightly and snapped his fingers as the verdicts were read. He nodded to jurors and patted his attorney after he learned his fate.

“He seemed to be acting like he won the lottery,” said Harold McFarland, father of one of the victims.

Morva, an escaped inmate, was convicted in the shooting deaths of security guard Derrick McFarland, 32, and sheriff’s Cpl. Eric Sutphin, 40.

Families of the victims and Morva’s mother, Elizabeth Morva, wept as the verdict was returned.

Cindy McFarland, Mr. McFarland’s widow, said hers were tears of happiness. “He took two innocent people who didn’t deserve to die, and now he deserves to die,” she said.

Harold McFarland said after the sentencing verdict that he was not a vengeful person, but he thought that the death penalty was appropriate in certain cases.

“This is one of them,” he said.

Montgomery County Sheriff Tommy Whitt was elated by the verdict.

“Justice prevailed,” he said he told the victims’ family members.

Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Ray Wilson Grubbs set formal sentencing for June 23. He can accept the jury’s recommended sentence or lower it, but judges in Virginia rarely have done so.

The eight-day trial was moved 100 miles from Montgomery County because of difficulty seating a jury there last fall. Jurors heard heart-rending prosecution testimony about the two men’s exemplary lives, while the defense portrayed the killer as an eccentric free spirit with a personality disorder.

Montgomery County Commonwealth’s Attorney Bradley W. Finch said in his closing statement that Morva’s crimes met both legal conditions for the most severe punishment — presenting a danger to society and depravity of mind.

“He is both extremely intelligent and extremely violent,” he said. “That is a deadly combination.”

Morva “showed no mercy” when he shot the unarmed Mr. McFarland in the face from two feet away, Mr. Finch said. He then had more than a day to think about what he had done before he shot Cpl. Sutphin in the back of the head.

“It did not faze him,” he said. “That is depraved.”

Morva overpowered a sheriff’s deputy at a hospital where he had been taken for treatment of an injury and used the deputy’s pistol to shoot Mr. McFarland. He shot Cpl. Sutphin one day later on a walking trail near the Virginia Tech campus, which had been shut down on the first day of classes while police conducted a manhunt looking for him.

Defense attorney Tony Anderson urged the jury not to act out of revenge and said life in prison would be more severe punishment than death for Morva, whose killing spree was spawned by a fear of returning to jail. Someone who loved the outdoors wouldn’t be able to move without shackles and chains, he said.

Mr. Anderson acknowledged that what Morva did was “horrible” and urged jurors to “lock that jail and throw away the key” because death would represent freedom to him.

“Don’t let your hands unlock the chains, open the door and allow Mr. Morva to escape again,” he said.

Weeping family members and those who witnessed Mr. McFarland’s killing testified that they still suffer from nightmares and must take medication and receive counseling.

Both men’s widows broke down Tuesday during the penalty phase as they described how their once-carefree children have changed.

Mrs. McFarland said her husband immediately became a father to her son Jonathan, now 12, when the couple married in 2002. Now, she said, her son thinks he has to be the man of the house.

Cpl. Sutphin’s 10-year-old twin daughters, Rachel and Emily, no longer joke and laugh, Tamara Sutphin said. Asked by Mr. Finch how they are doing, she said, “I don’t know. They’re not the same, but they don’t want to talk about it.”

On the job, Cpl. Sutphin had “a calming and soothing manner instead of a bullish approach,” Sheriff Whitt said through tears. Deputy Russell Quesenberry said Cpl. Sutphin once had a suspect whom he had arrested apologize to him when they got to the jail.

Deputy Quesenberry, whom Morva beat unconscious with a toilet paper dispenser at the hospital, said he had to stop serving on a rescue squad crew because he’s “not as compassionate as I used to be.”

“For months, I woke up in the middle of the night,” he said. “I just felt like I couldn’t breathe, like there was something around my throat.”

Mr. McFarland liked to cook and brought food to his Montgomery Regional Hospital co-workers and fixed their computer problems, family and co-workers said.

High school friends of Morva described him as caring and gentle. But a psychiatrist who examined him after his arrest said he exhibited nearly all of the traits of schizotypal personality disorder, which made him an intense, inflexible person who was unable to see the perspective of others.

The defense also contended that Morva had felt a building sense of frustration in jail, where he had been held for months without bail after his arrest on attempted robbery charges.

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