Virginia Shooting Suspect Had History of Mental Breakdowns

Warrant describes how 8 slaying victims found

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Christopher Bryan Speight

    The first deputy to arrive at a rural Virginia homestead where eight people were slain found two woman dead on the porch and a man's body next to a car in the driveway, according to search warrants released Friday.

    Another man was found barely alive on a nearby unpaved road with a gunshot wound to the torso. He later died at a local hospital. The deputy heard shots and called for backup.

    A tactical team went inside and found three more bodies and an explosive booby trap. The warrants don't say where the eighth body was found.

    Police said Christopher Speight, 39, killed the eight early Tuesday at the house he shared with his sister and brother-in-law and their two children, who were among those slain. Speight fired on a police helicopter and hid in the woods before surrendering almost a day later.

    Police still have not released a motive, though friends said Speight may have thought his sister was trying to kick him out of the house.

    Speight is charged with one count of murder, and Commonwealth's Attorney Darrel Puckett said Friday that he will meet with law enforcement soon to discuss additional charges.

    Puckett said Speight declined a court-appointed attorney during a brief hearing Friday morning before Judge Richard S. Blanton in Appomattox County Circuit Court.

    Speight didn't make any other comments. An arraignment hearing has not been scheduled.

    Authorities identified the victims as Speight's sister, Lauralee Sipe, and her husband, Dwayne Sipe, both 38; their 15-year-old daughter, Morgan Dobyns, and 4-year-old son Joshua Sipe; 16-year-old Ronald "Bo" Scruggs; and 15-year-old Emily Quarles and her parents, 43-year-old Karen and Jonathan Quarles.

    Appomattox County Chief Deputy Todd Craft confirmed a Richmond Times-Dispatch report that Jonathan Quarles and Scruggs, Emily Quarles' boyfriend, went to the house to find her and Karen. They had gone to take Morgan home after she spent the night at the Quarles' house.

    Relatives and people who knew Speight say he had a history of mental breakdowns and may have become fixated on the notion that his sister wanted to oust him from the house passed down to them by their grandparents and mother. The family lawyer, however, says her intention was exactly the opposite: She planned to deed the property solely to him.

    Speight had struggled since his mother died from brain cancer in 2006, said uncle Thomas Giglio. Speight's father abandoned them some 30 years ago, and he and his mother were very close.

    "He didn't take it good at all," Giglio said. "I don't think he ever reconciled it."

    Lynchburg attorney Harry Devening, who handled legal matters for the family, said Speight had an apparent learning disability and history of mental problems, and "ran away" from his sister's Georgia home for several days during a breakdown in 2007, about a year after his mother died.

    Giglio said Dwayne Sipe found him in a motel room along a highway. Even then the family had no reason to suspect Speight might turn violent. Giglio said he last spoke to Dwayne Sipe the Saturday before the shootings and everything seemed fine.

    Devening said Lauralee Sipe perceived no problems either, signing a deed late last week to put the family property in Speight's name. She planned to record it at the courthouse immediately, he said, but both Friday and Monday were state holidays.

    The lawyer cautioned her that she was giving up her half of the property.

    "She said he was fine, he was normal, and she wasn't concerned about it," Devening said. As for her share, "it was never of any consequence to her. She was very happy with the arrangement."