- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 21, 2010

APPOMATTOX, Va. (AP) | Bomb technicians discovered a “multitude” of explosives Wednesday at a home where seven people were found dead, police said. The killings launched an all-night manhunt that ended when the suspect surrendered at sunrise.

Christopher Bryan Speight, 39, was wearing a bulletproof vest but had no weapons when he turned himself in to police around 7:10 a.m., Sheriff O. Wilson Staples said.

Authorities said he fired at a state police helicopter, rupturing its gas tank and forcing it to land, but no one on board was hurt. Police still have not revealed a motive or identified the victims.

Sheriff Staples said Wednesday that Mr. Speight lived in the home where three bodies were found inside and four outside. An eighth victim, who was found barely alive on the road just outside the house, died at the hospital.

Police were concerned that Mr. Speight might have rigged the house with explosives, and state police Sgt. Thomas Molnar said bomb-sniffing dogs found a “multitude of devices inside and outside the house.” Bomb technicians were exploding the devices.

Authorities have not said how Mr. Speight was related to the victims. Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller also would not say what Mr. Speight said when he turned himself in.

He was wearing camouflage pants and a black sweat shirt when officers put him in a sheriff’s car at state police headquarters later Wednesday. He was being taken to jail and had not been charged.

Police did not identify the dead, but rumors flew around the county, which has about 14,500 residents. Appomattox County Schools Superintendent Dorinda Grasty said crisis teams will be available when students return to school Thursday.

The drama that started around noon Tuesday paralyzed the rural area about 100 miles southwest of Richmond that is best known as the place where Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant to end the Civil War.

“This is a horrific tragedy,” Miss Geller said Wednesday. “It’s definitely one of the worst mass killings in Virginia, probably since the Virginia Tech tragedy in April of 2007.”

Appomattox County court records show a concealed weapons permit was issued to a Christopher Bryan Speight three times between 1999 and last year. The issue dates match the five-year renewal period for concealed handgun permits under Virginia law.

Authorities earlier said Mr. Speight had a high-powered rifle and Sheriff Staples said investigators think he had weapons training based on the weapons found in his home, though they have no information to indicate he was in the military.

Mr. Speight’s uncle, Jack Giglio of Tampa, Fla., said his nephew was a deer hunter, though as far as he knew Mr. Speight did not have any specialized weapons training.

“We’re shocked, of course,” Mr. 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.”



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