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Escapee Kills Two Before Capture, Police Say

NY TIMES SPIN ZONE -- Reprinted from the New York times ONLINE.  This doesn't sound like the same crime.
Published: August 22, 2006

An escaped jail inmate shot and killed a deputy sheriff and a security guard before the police caught him in the woods near Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, a police lieutenant said yesterday.

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Steve Heiber/Associated Press

William Morva, a jail inmate who escaped while he was in a hospital for treatment, after his capture Monday in woods near Blacksburg, Va.

The capture ended a manhunt that had locked down most businesses and municipal buildings in the city.

The escape led to the cancellation of the first day of classes at the university, with many of the 25,000 undergraduates staying in their dormitories.

The inmate, William Morva, 24, escaped on Sunday while being treated at Montgomery County Regional Hospital for a sprained ankle and wrist. Mr. Morva overpowered and injured an officer guarding him, then took his gun, officials said.

As Mr. Morva fled, he shot Derrick McFarland, 26, an unarmed hospital security guard who died from his wounds, the police lieutenant, Joe Davis, said.

About 7 a.m. yesterday, Mr. Morva shot and killed Cpl. Eric E. Sutphin, who had worked for the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department for 13 years. Corporal Sutphin had confronted Mr. Morva near the head of Huckleberry Trail, connecting the university campus and the hospital, Robert Parker, a county spokesman, said.

Police officials said that in capturing Mr. Morva they recovered the weapon believed to have been used in the two shootings.

In 2003, Corporal Sutphin was awarded the Governor’s Medal of Valor for bravery in pursuing and capturing the killer of a fellow officer, despite having been shot twice.

Mr. Morva was awaiting trial after being charged in August 2005 in connection with the attempted robbery of a convenience store in Blacksburg.

Daniel B. Thorp, a history professor at Virginia Tech, said most people on campus remained calm despite the police activity. Professor Thorp said he was involved in orientation for about 12 new graduate students when he started receiving phone and e-mail messages saying the southern part of the campus was cordoned off. The messages eventually told him that most buildings should be locked from the inside.

Because the manhunt began around 2 a.m, most students arriving on campus were aware of it, he said.

“Most of the chatter has been about what it takes to get a gun permit around here,” Professor Thorp said.

Christina Gardner, a bartender at the Rivermill bar in downtown Blacksburg, said she was a close friend of Mr. Morva, having attended Blacksburg High School with him. He regularly used the shower at her apartment, she said, to clean up, because he was homeless and lived in the woods.

“I never knew him to be a monster,” said Ms. Gardner, 24, who recounted how Mr. Morva intervened in a fight years ago and saved an older man’s life one night when drunk teenagers tried to rob him.

Ms. Gardner said that several months ago she heard from a shared acquaintance that Mr. Morva was in jail in the section where sexual offenders were housed.

“One of my friends saw him in the jail,” she said, “and was really worried about what was happening to him over there and whether he was getting sexually assaulted or something. I do wonder whether what happened at the hospital might have been his attempt to get out of jail.”

An official at the county jail who answered the phone but refused to give his name said he did not believe that Ms. Gardner’s information was correct. He refused to give more details or to transfer the call for more details.