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William Charles MORVA





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Escape - To avoid arrest
Number of victims: 2
Date of murders: August 20-21, 2006
Date of arrest: August 21, 2006
Date of birth: 1982
Victims profile: Derrick McFarland, 32 (hospital security guard) / Cpl. Eric Sutphin, 40 (Sheriff's deputy)
Method of murder: Shooting (.40-caliber Glock pistol)
Location: Blacksburg, Virginia, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on June 23, 2008

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William Charles Morva (born c. 1982) was a fugitive featured on America's Most Wanted who was responsible for the two shooting deaths of Sheriff's deputy Cpl. Eric Sutphin and hospital security guard Derrick McFarland, in the city of Blacksburg, Virginia, United States, near the university campus of Virginia Tech. He was sentenced to death on May 23, 2008. Judge Ray Grubs set the execution date for October 21, 2008, but Morva will have an automatic appeal.


William Morva lived in the Midlothian, Virginia area until his father, Charles Morva, retired and moved the family to Blacksburg. Charles worked as a substitute teacher at Blacksburg High School and barista at a local coffee shop until moving back to the Richmond area with his wife, Elizabeth. Charles Morva died in April 2004. Acquaintances say that they saw a decline in William Morva's behavior after the death of his father.

Morva had been a drifter without a permanent fixed address prior to his initial arrest in 2005. A self-professed survivalist, he was almost always without shoes, and spoke of spending nights in the woods around Blacksburg.

Escape and capture

While in jail awaiting trial for attempted armed robbery, Morva was taken to Montgomery Regional Hospital on August 20, 2006 for a sprained ankle and wrist. After using a hospital bathroom, he assaulted and knocked a deputy unconscious using a metal toilet-paper container. He seized the deputy's gun and shot Derrick McFarland, a hospital security guard who was running to the deputy's aid. McFarland died from his wounds.

This initiated a manhunt for Morva, who on the morning of August 21, 2006 shot and killed a Montgomery County sheriff's deputy, Cpl. Eric Sutphin, on the Huckleberry Trail near the Virginia Tech Campus. Sutphin, born 1966, had been an officer for a total of 13 years and had survived a prior shooting in May 2003, which killed officer Scott Hylton, leading Sutphin to quit the police force; he returned, however, after just six months away despite making much more money as a modular home salesman. He was survived by his wife, Tamara, and his seven-year-old twin daughters.

Police evacuated and searched Squires Student Center on the campus after someone fitting Morva's description was seen inside. However, this sighting turned out to be unfounded. Virginia Tech canceled classes and closed campus. At 3:36 p.m. EDT August 21, 2006, Montgomery County police reported over the police scanner that Morva was captured and taken into custody. He was found hiding in a briar patch about 150 yards from where Sutphin was fatally shot.

Aftermath and related incidents

Morva's brother, Michael Akos Morva, has been charged with conspiring to escape. The alleged conspiracy occurred in January 2006, when both brothers were in jail on charges related to attempted thefts. Michael has denied any connection with Morva's August 2006 escape from police custody.

On August 29, 2006, Commonwealth's Attorney Brad Finch announced that Morva would be charged with capital murder and use of a firearm in the shooting death of McFarland. A second capital murder charge would be sought in the shooting death of Sutphin, to be decided on at the grand jury meeting on October 10, 2006. Finch also stated that he would seek the death penalty for Morva.

Morva’s defense attorney requested a change of the trial location for Morva’s original robbery charges. The cases include the failed armed robbery of the Blacksburg Deli Mart and attempted burglaries of Blacksburg’s Freedom First Credit Union, Food Time and Burger King.

The trial was to be held at Montgomery County Circuit Court, but Morva’s attorneys argued it would be impossible to find an impartial jury in Montgomery County due to the publicity Morva received since his escape and the subsequent murders. Morva’s attorney is quoted as saying, “I don’t think there (have) been this many cases that have gotten nearly as much attention.”

Morva's trial hearings began September 17, 2007, in Montgomery County for two counts of capital murder, and one count of attempting to commit murder with a firearm. On September 20, Judge Ray Grubbs ruled, following a jury selection process in which 45 prospective jurors were dismissed for cause, that the trial could not be held in Montgomery County. On March 13, 2008 Morva was sentenced to death.


Morva sentenced to death

By Meg Miller -

Friday, March 14, 2008

A jury recommended the death penalty yesterday for William Morva, who was found guilty of killing two in Montgomery County in August 2006.

The Washington County jury deliberated for three hours before agreeing that 26-year-old Morva should be executed rather than be sentenced to life in prison without parole.  Yesterday's decision took slightly less than the three-and-a-half hour deliberation at the same courthouse on Tuesday that found him guilty of capital murder.

Morva was found responsible for killing an unarmed hospital security guard, Derrick McFarland, as well as sheriff's Cpl. Eric Sutphin of the Montgomery County Sheriff's office, following his escape from Montgomery Regional Hospital. Morva was also convicted of an additional count of capital murder for killing two people within three years.

In addition to the three counts of capital murder, Morva faced two counts of use of a firearm in commission of a felony, one count of assault and battery of a police officer, and one count of escape with force, according to the Commonwealth Attorney's Web site.

Members of the victims' families and Morva's mother wept after the reading of the verdict, while Morva snapped his fingers and slightly smiled at the decision of his fate.

According to the AP, Montgomery County Commonwealth's Attorney Brad Finch called for the death penalty in his closing statement, saying Morva's crimes presented a danger to society and depravity of mind, the two legal conditions for the most severe punishment. Defense attorney Tony Anderson argued that the killing spree was spawned by Morva's fear of returning to jail, and that life in prison would be a more severe punishment than death.

Witnesses who went to high school with Morva described him as caring and gentle, but a psychiatrist who examined him after his arrest said he exhibited nearly all of the traits of schizotypal personality disorder, making him an intense, inflexible person unable to see the perspective of others.

On Aug. 20, 2006, after complaining of a sprained ankle, Morva was taken to Montgomery Regional Hospital from Montgomery County Jail, where he was being held on charges of robbery.

After using a restroom at the hospital, he overpowered the deputy guarding him with a toilet paper dispenser, shot and killed McFarland and fled from the hospital. His escape prompted a 36-hour manhunt by police in the area.

On  Aug. 21, he killed Sutphin, who was on bicycle patrol while participating in the search for Morva on the Huckleberry trail.

During the hunt for Morva, Virginia Tech canceled the first day of classes and closed the campus.

Morva's trial was moved to Washington County after an unsuccessful jury selection in Montgomery County. The defense was concerned that Morva could not receive a fair trial because of the case's high profile in the area.


Jury recommends Death Penalty for William Morva

By Rex Bowman - Richmond Times-Dispatch

March 14, 2008

ABINGDON—A jury yesterday recommended a death sentence for William Morva, a former beatnik who fatally shot an unarmed hospital guard and a sheriff’s deputy during a 2006 jail escape.

The jury took three hours to reach its decision, which left the victims’ families in tears as they hugged each other in Washington County Circuit Court. Morva looked cheerful, snapping his fingers and smiling when the death penalty was announced. His mother, sitting behind him, wept.

The mother of Montgomery sheriff’s deputy Eric Sutphin, one of the two victims, said justice had been served.

“My son gave his life for the justice system, and this is what he would have wanted,” said a tearful Jeaneen Sutphin.

“I’m extremely happy; I’m very happy,” said Cindy McFarland, widow of hospital guard Derrick McFarland. “I believe he deserved it. He feels no remorse whatsoever. He took two innocent people who didn’t deserve to die, and now he deserves to die.”

Derrick McFarland’s father also was pleased with the jury’s recommendation.

“I’m not really a proponent of the death penalty, but in certain cases I agree with it, and this is one of them,” Harold McFarland said. “This guy showed no remorse. He reacted [to the jury’s decision] as if he’d won the lottery. He snapped his fingers and spoke to the lawyer as if he’d won.”

On Tuesday, jurors convicted Morva of capital murder for shooting McFarland, 32, and Sutphin, 40.

At the time of the shootings and his escape, Morva was an inmate at Montgomery County Jail. He was taken to Montgomery Regional Hospital on Aug. 20, 2006, for treatment of minor injuries. He beat a deputy, took his .40-caliber Glock pistol, and used it to shoot McFarland in the face as the unarmed guard held out his hands, palms up, in a posture a witness described as passive.

The next day, Morva shot Sutphin in the back of the head as Sutphin took part in a massive manhunt for Morva in Blacksburg. Sutphin’s body was found along the wooded Huckleberry Trail, not far from where deputies later found Morva hiding with the pistol.

The search prompted Virginia Tech to cancel the first day of fall classes after someone reported that Morva might have been in one of the campus buildings. Publicity surrounding the escape and killings prompted a judge to move the trial from Montgomery to Abingdon.

During a trial that began last week, Morva was portrayed as a free-spirited, caring and intelligent teenager who became increasingly odd after reaching his 20s. Those who knew him testified that he walked around downtown Blacksburg in his bare feet, eschewed his apartment for life on the street and in cafés, slept on friends’ couches and worked odd jobs only long enough to earn enough money to survive.

A psychiatrist testified that Morva suffered from a personality disorder that made him think police were out to get him, focused him unnaturally on his health and left him overly suspicious. His diet consisted of meat and nuts.

Defense attorneys had pleaded with jurors to sentence Morva to life in prison, arguing that his frustration at being in jail—amplified by a bowel condition that made trips to the toilet a torment—was so great in 2006 that life in prison would be worse punishment than execution.

“Lock that jail and throw away the key,” defense attorney Tony Anderson urged jurors, contending that Morva’s death would be a kind of freedom. “Don’t let your hands unlock the chains, open the door and allow Mr. Morva to escape again.”

But Montgomery prosecutor Bradley W. Finch argued that Morva’s distaste for confinement was one of the reasons jurors needed to have Morva put to death: Morva, Finch said, could escape and kill again.

“What makes this particular defendant so dangerous is that this defendant is extremely intelligent and extremely violent,” Finch said.

“Could there be more of a future danger than the combination of extreme intelligence and extreme violence, the combination of an individual who lives by his own rules, who doesn’t feel the rules apply to him?”

Morva was convicted of three counts of capital murder: one for killing McFarland, one for killing Sutphin, and one for committing two murders in less than three years. The jury recommended death for all three counts.

Montgomery Circuit Judge Ray Wilson Grubbs is set to formally sentence Morva on June 23. Judges in Virginia can lower a jury’s sentence but rarely do.


Jury recommended the death penalty

Associated Press

ABINGDON, Va. (AP) - A jury recommended the death penalty Thursday for a man who murdered a hospital security guard and a sheriff’s deputy after escaping from custody.
Families of his victims and his own mother wept as the verdicts were read, but William Morva smiled slightly and snapped his fingers. He nodded to jurors and patted his attorney after he learned his fate.

“He seemed to be acting like he won the lottery,” said Harold McFarland, whose son Derrick was one of Morva’s victims.

It took about three hours for the Washington County jury to agree that Morva, 26, should be executed rather than face life in prison without parole. That’s slightly less than it took the panel Tuesday to convict him of capital murder in the August 2006 killings.

Cindy McFarland, McFarland’s widow, said her tears during the verdict were of happiness.
“He took two innocent people who didn’t deserve to die, and now he deserves to die,” she said.

Harold McFarland said after Thursday’s verdict that he is not a vengeful person, but believed the death penalty was appropriate in certain cases.

“This is one of them,” he said.

Jurors heard heart-rending prosecution testimony about the victims’ exemplary lives, while the defense portrayed the killer as an eccentric free spirit with a personality disorder.

Montgomery County Commonwealth’s Attorney Brad Finch called for the death penalty in his closing statement, saying Morva’s crimes met both legal conditions for the most severe punishment: presenting a danger to society and depravity of mind.

“He is both extremely intelligent and extremely violent,” he said. “That is a deadly combination.”

Morva “showed no mercy” when he shot McFarland in the face from two feet away, Finch said. He then had more than a day to think about what he had done before he shot Sutphin in the back of the head.

“It did not faze him,” he said. “That is depraved.”

Defense attorney Tony Anderson said the killing spree was spawned by Morva’s fear of returning to jail, and that life in prison would be more severe punishment than death.
Anderson acknowledged that what Morva did was horrible, and urged jurors to “lock that jail and throw away the key” because death would represent freedom to his client.

“Don’t let your hands unlock the chains, open the door and allow Mr. Morva to escape again,” he said.

High school friends of Morva described him as caring and gentle. But a psychiatrist who examined him after his arrest said he exhibited nearly all of the traits of schizotypal personality disorder, which made him an intense, inflexible person who was unable to see the perspective of others.

The defense said Morva had felt a building sense of frustration in jail, where he had been held for months without bond after his arrest on attempted robbery charges.


Morva guilty in botched robberies

The jury recommended a 38-year sentence for the man better known for being charged in two killings.

By Shawna Morrison - The Roanoke Times

Saturday, March 31, 2007

CHRISTIANSBURG — A jury late Friday recommended that William Morva spend 38 years in prison for his role in botched attempts to rob one Blacksburg business and break into two others in 2005.

The Montgomery County jury took only half an hour to agree on how much time Morva should serve, after taking 2 1/2 hours earlier to find him guilty of seven related charges and not guilty of one count of destruction of property.

Before recommending a sentence, the jury heard from a tearful Elizabeth Morva, whose testimony shed some light on her son, who has come to be known only for accusations that he killed two men.

William Morva, 25, is charged with three counts of capital murder in connection with the shooting deaths of Derrick McFarland, a security guard at Montgomery Regional Hospital, and Cpl. Eric Sutphin of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office. A trial on those charges and several others related to his August escape is scheduled to begin Sept. 17.

Morva is accused of killing McFarland and Sutphin after he reportedly overpowered a deputy and escaped custody at the hospital, where he was being treated for injuries the morning of Aug. 20.

Morva was an inmate at Montgomery County Jail at the time. His escape came just three days before he was scheduled to go to trial on the robbery and burglary charges.
Elizabeth Morva said her elderly husband, William Morva’s father, Charles Morva, died in 2004 after suffering from colon cancer for two years.

William Morva showed up at the funeral shabbily dressed and barefoot, she said.

“His mind was not normal,” she said. “His thoughts were not normal. He was disconnected.”

The day after the funeral, the family went out to dinner, Elizabeth Morva said. William Morva didn’t want to talk about his father, but cried over the plight of the American Indian.

She said it became clear to her on several occasions that he needed mental help, but she didn’t know how to get it. She begged him to move to Chesterfield County, where she lived, but he refused to leave Blacksburg.

Two of William Morva’s former friends, Stanford Harvey and Gregory Nelson, testified that Morva was an active player in attempts to break into the Freedom First Credit Union ATM and in breaking out the door to the Burger King on Turner Road and trying to cut into a safe in the restaurant’s office in July 2005.

They said he threatened to kill them with chloroform and burn or bury their bodies if they ever turned him in.

Morva’s mouth fell open and he shook his head, looking bewildered, as Harvey and Nelson testified.

Harvey, who admitted to driving the getaway car for the Glade Road Deli Mart robbery, said it was Morva’s idea for him and another man, Jeffrey Scott Roberts, to carry loaded weapons into the store.

Jeanette McClingberg said she had just locked up to close the night of Aug. 16, 2005, when she saw two armed, masked men outside the store.

One of them ran toward the automatic door and cussed when it wouldn’t open, she said.

Although the man was masked, McClingberg said she could make out his dark, “evil-looking” eyes and prominent “Jay Leno chin.”

After running from the store, Roberts was captured minutes later in a nearby wooded area. Morva was arrested later after a tracking dog followed his scent.

Blacksburg police Officer Brian Cross said Morva told him he had gone into the wooded area to retrieve his 12-gauge shotgun. Someone he couldn’t identify had taken the gun and he wanted to get it back before something bad happened, Cross said Morva told him.

Detective Sgt. Anthony Wilson said Morva told him the same story a year later, days before his escape. No one believed his story, though, Wilson said.

Wilson also said that Morva desperately wanted to be granted bond. He couldn’t stand being in jail and felt as though he’d been wrongly incarcerated, Wilson said.

After the two-day trial, which had started Thursday with a full day of jury selection, wrapped up Friday night, Commonwealth’s Attorney Brad Finch said he was pleased with the outcome.

He said he doesn’t think the pending capital murder charges played a factor in the jury’s decision, though every juror had admitted during jury selection that they were aware of them.

Morva’s defense attorney, Thomas DeBusk, said he and Morva had discussed the option of Morva’s testifying but decided it was best he didn’t take the stand.

Morva faces five to 73 years in prison on the seven convictions.

Circuit Judge Ray Grubbs, who presided over the trial, will formally sentence him in late June.


Escapee Kills Two Before Capture, Police Say

By Ian Urbina - The New York Times

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.

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.


Shooting suspect caught in Blacksburg

By Amy L. Kovac, Angela Manese-Lee, Matt Gentry, Albert Raboteau, Donna Alvis-Banks, Robert Anderson, Greg Esposito and Shay Barnhart

The Roanoke Times

Monday, August 21, 2006

William Morva, accused of killing a police officer and a security guard, is captured after a day-and-a-half manhunt that prompts the shutdown and evacuation of Virginia Tech.



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