NEWS- Sorrowful: Local officers mourn former comrade
The longest day-and-a-half Blacksburg has seen in years came to an end at 3:39pm August 21 when police apprehended 24-year-old William Morva near the rugby fields on Tech Center Drive. Morva had been the subject of a massive manhunt after two killings in Blacksburg– one of which took down a decorated officer who used to work in Charlottesville, Albemarle, and Fluvanna.
Morva had escaped from Montgomery County Regional Hospital after being transported from jail where he was awaiting trial for armed robbery. He was armed when police closed in on him, but there were no reports of any shots fired or injuries in the arrest.
On Monday morning, Morva allegedly shot and killed Montgomery County sheriff's corporal Eric Sutphin at one end of Blacksburg's Huckleberry Trail. Morva is also charged with killing Derrick McFarland, a security guard at Montgomery Regional Hospital early Sunday morning. Morva was being treated in the emergency room for a sprained leg and wrist when he escaped.
Sutphin had been an Albemarle County police officer in the 1990s, and his death is especially hard for his former colleagues and others in the Charlottesville area. Sutphin started his police career with the Charlottesville police, followed by seven years in the Albemarle County department and a year in the Fluvanna County County Sheriff's Office. He had been with the Montgomery County force since 2003.
"He was a good street cop," says Lt. John Teixeira of the Albemarle police. "He had a good balance of being compassionate and street smart. When things would get tight on the streets late at night, you could always call him up."
In Central Virginia, Sutphin was probably best known for his role in the case of Timothy Eads, who in January 2001 bound and raped a woman in her Batesville home before leading police on a high-speed chase through the back roads of Batesville and Afton. After Eads totaled the stolen car, Sutphin tracked him down on foot to make the arrest.
"It was a first class arrest," recalls Teixeira. "That woman had been through enough and didn't need this guy floating around. That's just the type of officer Eric was."
A local Virginia Tech alum who knew Sutphin's accused killer when she lived in Blacksburg tells the Hook she was shocked to learn of the charges against the 24-year-old homeless man.
"He was just an obnoxious jerk around town, but nobody was afraid of him," says the woman, recalling that his erratic behavior included long-winded rants about his plans to "live in the woods" and a habit of eating raw meat. Additionally, she remembers a time before he was arrested for armed robbery when he got violent with a gun.
"He shot a gun off in a bar in Blacksburg one night," she says. "And I remember telling him then that this was bad and that he shouldn't carry around a loaded weapon. Somebody should have done something that night."
So notorious was Morva in Blacksburg that a few of his former friends had screen-printed t-shirts made with his face and the words "William Morva Is An A**hole" and were selling them for $5 long before he ran afoul of the law.
Local web journalist and Tech alum Waldo Jaquith was never formally introduced to Morva during his days in Blacksburg, but definitely knew of him.
"I lived downtown next to a coffee shop, and he was just a creepy guy who'd be barefoot outside the coffee shop in January," says Jaquith. "I figured he was nuts or harmless."
On what was to have been the first day of the fall semester, Virginia Tech officials canceled classes at 10:30am Monday to help police in the hunt for the barefoot, tie-dye-shirt, khaki-short wearing Morva. Police blocked off the southern part of the campus, and Tech Vice President Kurt Krause asked students and employees to stay put, warning that Morva was armed.
Virginia Tech junior Henry Wakely knew something was amiss when he was going to class Monday morning.
"I was riding my motorcycle to class at 8:15, and three state troopers on their motorcycles passed me," he says. "Then later on I walked into my 10 o'clock class, and the professor wrote 'go home' on the board without saying a word."
According to Wakely, some took the warnings more seriously than others.
"There were still people outside playing volleyball," he says. "Some of the college kids were just happy to have the day off and were partying."
William Morva allegedly shot and killed a hospital security guard and a Montgomery County police officer.
COURTESY OF MONTGOMERY COUNTY
So notorious was Morva around Blacksburg that some Virginia Tech students were wearing this t-shirt and posting such images on Facebook.com long before the shootings.
Eric Sutphin, seen here accepting his 2003 Medal of Valor award, was a seven year veteran of the Albemarle Police Department.
COURTESY OF VIRGINIA CHIEFS OF POLICE