- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 13, 2008

ABINGDON, Va. (AP) — An escaped inmate convicted of capital murder has a personality disorder that results in distorted perceptions and odd behavior, a psychiatrist testified yesterday Wednesday.

Dr. Bruce Cohen, a psychiatrist at the University of Virginia, testified for the defense as attorneys for William Morva attempted to convince a Washington County Circuit Court jury that their client should receive life in prison without parole rather than the death penalty.

The same jurors convicted Morva, 26, on Tuesday in the slayings of a hospital security guard and a sheriff”s deputy in Montgomery County.

Dr. Cohen said Morva had nearly all of the nine traits of schizotypal personality disorder, which often begins in adolescence. He said it is not as severe as schizophrenia but made Morva an intense, rigid person who was unable to see things from others” perspective. He testified that Morva also has characteristics of narcissism, which prevents a person from feeling empathy for others.

Witnesses painted a picture of Morva living a back-to-nature existence in Blacksburg, Va., for several years after his family moved away and before he killed security guard Derrick L. McFarland and sheriff”s Cpl. Eric E. Sutphin in August 2006. He rarely held a job, would go barefoot even in winter and sometimes lived in the woods.

Dr. Cohen”s report said Morva saw himself as “that cool guy who hangs out all the time” in coffee shops, while the psychiatrist said others he talked to saw him as an eccentric who was so intense that they couldn”t have conversations with him.

Friends, most of whom knew Morva in high school in the late 1990s, remembered him as a caring, gentle person. Several said that he belonged to human rights organizations in school and that he was a pacifist. They were shocked to learn that he had been arrested on capital murder charges.

“He was very fervently against guns,” said Maria Rott, now a designer and pianist in Blacksburg.

Kyla Trice testified that he was one of the few friends that she had when she became pregnant as a teenager and that he held her son when he was born.

Amber Erbschloe testified that she once let Morva stay at her house while he looked for work but asked him to leave after two weeks when he didn”t get a job. Questioned by Montgomery County Commonwealth”s Attorney Bradley W. Finch, Miss Erbschloe said she saw Morva as someone who used people.

The defense has contended that Morva had physical problems that led to frustration and a feeling that he could die in jail, and his friends testified yesterday that they were aware that he had digestive problems.

Jurors will hear closing statements today, then decide on Morva”s punishment. Under Virginia law, a person convicted of capital murder must be sentenced either to death or life in prison without parole.

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