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Virginia Families, Town in Mourning After Shootings

Virginia Families, Town in Mourning After Shootings

Murder suspect Christopher Speight, center, is led out of State Police headquarters in Appomattox, Va., Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2010. Speight is accused of killing eight people and leading police on an overnight manhunt. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Associated Press

January 22, 2010

APPOMATTOX, Va. — Jonathan Quarles was the kind of guy who took in flying squirrels and turtles, then released them back to the wild. The kind of guy who gathered clothes and furniture for strangers when their house burned down.

Wife Karen often craved the Corner Grill’s “Cheesy Western,” a burger topped with a fried egg. And their 15-year-old daughter Emily had a new boyfriend, 16-year-old Bo Scruggs, who tangled with his mother over how long to wear his hair.

They weren’t related to 39-year-old security guard Christopher Bryan Speight. Nor were they part of the dispute – real or imagined – that he had with his sister over a sprawling, 34-acre Appomattox estate the siblings had inherited.

Officer Involved Shootings

Yet all four are dead, along with Speight’s sister, brother-in-law, 15-year-old niece and 4-year-old nephew.

Speight is jailed on one count of murder and likely to face more charges in the Tuesday morning rampage that killed all eight at the quiet country homestead he shared with 37-year-old Lauralee, her 38-year-old husband Dwayne Sipe and their children, Morgan Dobyns and Joshua Sipe.

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.

Police say Speight killed his victims, then fired on a police helicopter, escaped into the woods and held officers at bay for 18 hours before surrendering.

He had struggled since his mother died from brain cancer in 2006, said uncle Thomas Giglio. Speight’s father had 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.”

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Crime scene tape surrounds a home that was the scene of a shooting in Appomattox, Va., Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2010. Officers captured Christopher Speight, who is accused of killing eight people and leading police on an overnight manhunt. (AP Photo/Steve Helb

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.


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