- Last Updated on 11:41 AM 04/23/12
- BY By Sonny Riddle and Paula I. Bryant
Christopher Bryan Speight, the 39-year-old Appomattox man accused in the Tuesday shooting spree in Appomattox County that left eight victims dead, has close ties to Halifax County.
Assistant Superintendent of Halifax County Public Schools Larry Clark confirmed Thursday that Speight had attended school here in the 1980s.
“He attended the junior high as an eighth-grader and then moved out of state the next few years,” Clark said. “He returned and attended Halifax County Senior High School for one semester.”
HCHS Principal Albert Randolph said, according to school records, Speight was a student at the high school for one semester in school year 1986-87 before transferring to Rustburg High School.
Halifax County Sheriff Stanley Noblin said yesterday he remembered Speight from high school.
“We were the same age, and I remember his face and his name but nothing else,” the sheriff said.
Perhaps Speight’s uncle, Tom Giglio of South Boston, offers the best profile of Christopher Speight.
“My whole perspective on life changed in one night. It’s unbelievable,” Giglio said in a phone interview Thursday afternoon.
Giglio remembers his nephew as “a great little kid who was always funny and laughing.
“Chris had no problems when he lived here as a kid. This all defies logic,” an emotional Giglio said. “Never in my life would I have ever thought something like this could happen.”
Law enforcement officials have charged Speight with one count of first-degree murder involving the deaths of eight individuals, according to Deborah Cox of Virginia State Police Headquarters in Richmond. Additional charges are pending, Cox said.
Two of the victims have been identified as Speight’s sister and brother-in-law, 38-year-old Lauralee Sipe and her 38-year-old husband, Dwayne S. Sipe.
“Chris loved his sister. They were like Mutt and Jeff, “Giglio said describing his niece and nephew’s relationship.
“All of his problems started with the death of his mother who was my sister. When she died, apparently the way it’s looking now, some things went wrong, but we don’t know what. When his mother died, he didn’t cope with that, but that’s all hindsight now.”
Giglio said his nephew has lived away from this area for “a good 20 years,” and although they haven’t had a close relationship, they did stay in contact, “not everyday contact.”
“He was very close to his sister and to Dwayne. That’s what’s so bizarre. They were very close.
“We’re asking ‘WHY.’ That was his family. We just don’t understand. I never got any indication ever that he would ever hurt any person. If anything, I got the reverse indication in that if anyone ever tried to hurt his family, he would protect them,” his uncle said. “We are totally blown out of the water.”
Giglio said family members are planning “a big family meeting” Friday where they “will go over a lot of things. I just don’t understand it at all.”
He further described his nephew as a calm and quiet person.
“He was the kind of person who everyone liked. I don’t know, but something has gone totally wrong. Something must have tripped in his mind,” he continued.
“I’ve lost that entire section of my family. It is gone. There are nine victims because Chris is his own victim,” Giglio said. “I’ve just lost everyone. They’re all gone. It’s like someone threw me on a table and chopped off both of my arms at the same time. It’s unimaginable.”
In addition to losing his neice, Giglio described the loss of her husband, Dwayne, also as “unimaginable.”
“Dwayne was one of the finest people I’ve ever known. He was a wonderful person. I just don’t know how to talk to his mother. It’s terrible,” Giglio said.
“This isn’t Christopher. It’s someone else in him. I don’t want people to say horrible things about Christopher, but this just won’t compute. He was not a bad person.”
Everything began to unfold in the multiple shooting Tuesday around noon when a wounded man was discovered lying in Snapps Mill Road in Appomattox County, state police officials said.
The injured man was airlifted to Lynchburg General Hospital where he later died, officials added.
The Appomattox County deputy who responded to the scene reported hearing shots fired, and additional law enforcement units were dispatched to the Snapps Mill Road location.
When officers arrived, they discovered four bodies outside a nearby house and three additional bodies inside.
As law enforcement units converged upon the suspect, he slipped into a wooded area where he fired a number of shots at a state police helicopter that had been brought in to help with the search, hitting the chopper several times, state police officials said.
Christopher Speight remained confined within the established law enforcement security perimeter the entire time of the search operation, state police officials said. He managed to conceal himself overnight in the wooded area and then turned himself in to SWAT Team members at daybreak, ending the 18-hour standoff.
At the time of surrender Wednesday, Speight was wearing a bulletproof vest and did not have a weapon in his possession, officials said. Speight was cooperative with law enforcement officials and provided useful information, they added.
The Mass Casualty Team with the Office of the State Medical Examiner and special agents with the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation began processing the crime scene in the 3000 block of Snapps Mill Road early Wednesday morning, according to state police officials.
Identifications of the victims were confirmed, and next of kin were notified, officials said. The eight victims were identified as Ronald I “Bo” Scruggs II, 16, of Dillwyn; Emily A. Quarles, 15, of Appomattox; Karen Quarles, 43, of Appomattox; Jonathan L. Quarles, 43, of Appomattox; Dwayne S. Sipe, 38, of Appomattox; Lauralee Sipe, 38, of Appomattox; Joshua Sipe, 4, of Appomattox; and Morgan L. Dobyns, 15, of Appomattox.
All of the victims were transported Wednesday to the state medical examiner’s office in Roanoke in order to determine the cause of death, state police officials said.
Speight was acquainted with the victims, and he had lived at the residence where the murders took place, officials said. He co-owns the residence and owns land adjacent to the residence, they added.
Speight’s uncle said he did not know the other victims.
“I can’t imagine what those families are going through,” Giglio said.
During a press conference Wednesday afternoon, state police Sgt. Thomas Molnar said they found a number of explosive devices at the property and a team of bomb technicians detonated some of them Wednesday and would continue detonating the remaining ones on Thursday to make them safe. Molnar said there was no indication any of the devices exploded on their own.
More than 150 personnel from the Appomattox County Sheriff’s Office, Virginia State Police, Campbell County Sheriff’s Office, Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office, Prince Edward County Sheriff’s Office, Farmville Police, Lynchburg Police Department, Bedford County Sheriff’s Office, Amherst County Sheriff’s Office, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Conservation Police, Virginia National Guard, Holiday Lake State Park Rangers, and ATF were involved in the search and recovery of Speight.
“This is horrific tragedy, definitely one of the worst mass killings in Virginia since the shootings at Virginia Tech in April, 2007” said Virginia State Police Spokeswoman Corrine Geller.