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.