Tuesday, July 17, 2007

CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. (AP) — A capital murder trial for an escaped jail inmate who was the object of a manhunt that paralyzed the Virginia Tech campus should be moved out of Montgomery County, defense attorneys argued yesterday.

William Morva’s case got even more publicity when it was mentioned in articles on the slayings of 32 persons on the Virginia Tech campus in April, making it unlikely he could receive a fair trial, attorney Thomas Blaylock argued.

Mr. Blaylock submitted as evidence a stack of newspaper articles, photographs, letters to the editor and TV news tapes.

“People in Montgomery County would have an almost impossible job to set aside what’s happened in this community,” he said.

Montgomery County Circuit Judge Ray Grubbs said he would study the evidence submitted, and set an Aug. 1 date for a ruling.

Morva, 25, faces trial in September in the slayings of a sheriff’s deputy and a security guard at a hospital where a jail officer had taken him for treatment of an injury last August.

According to police, Morva overpowered a sheriff’s deputy while he was at Montgomery Regional Hospital, stole his pistol, and used it to shoot security guard Derrick McFarland, 32.

Morva is charged with shooting Sheriff’s Cpl. Eric Sutphin the next day on a walking trail near the university campus. Cpl. Sutphin, 40, was one of hundreds of police officers searching for the escaped prisoner as Virginia Tech shut down the campus on the first day of classes.

Morva’s brother, Michael Morva, is charged in the case with conspiring to help a prisoner escape.

William Morva, a familiar figure at downtown Blacksburg businesses near the university, was considered a strange but harmless man who didn’t wear shoes. Police said he was homeless and didn’t hold a job.

He was sentenced last month to 38 years in prison on several attempted-robbery charges. He had been awaiting trial on those charges when he escaped.

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