Virginia police arrest suspect in Appomattox mass murder

January 21st, 2010 - 1:03 am ICT by BNO News  

APPOMATTOX, VIRGINIA (BNO NEWS) — SWAT Team members in Appomattox County, Virginia on Wednesday arrested a suspect in the murders of eight people on Tuesday, officials said.

Christopher B. Speight, 39, was taken into custody at approximately 7.10 a.m. local time after surrendering to SWAT team members assigned to a security perimeter.

The incident ebgan around noon on Tuesday when the Appomattox County Sheriff’s Office receive a 9-1-1 call about a male who was lying in the middle of Route 703, also known as Snapp Mill Road, and was in need of medical assistance. When the deputy sheriff arrived in the 3000 block of Snapps Mill Road, he heard gunfire in the area. The man who was lying on the road, was transported by a Med-Flight State Police helicopter to Lynchburg General Hospital, where he later died.

As additional units responded, according to the Virginia State Police, a search perimeter was set up in a wooded area within the vicinity of Snapps Mill Road and Route 613, also known as Police Tower Road. Further investigation yielded the discovery of four additional bodies outside a nearby residence and three bodies inside the residence. The deceased are both males and females. A nearby home was evacuated as a precautionary measure.

During the course of the search for a suspect on Tuesday, Speight is alleged to have fired at a State Police helicopter. The helicopter was struck at least four times, causing a fuel leak, and was forced to make an emergency landing in a field nearby. No one aboard the chopper was injured.

Speight is believed to have been confined within the established law-enforcement security perimeter the entire time of the search operation, and is thought to have been carrying a high-powered rifle. “He managed to conceal himself overnight in the wooded area and then turned himself in to authorities at daybreak,” a statement from the Virginia State Police read. At the time Speight surrendered, he was waring a bulletproof vest and was not carrying a weapon.

Virginia State Police crime scene technicians are currently processing the scene in the 3000 block of Snapps Mill Road/Route 703, as well as the wooded area within the secured perimeter.

Bomb technicians and explosives-detection canines are also on scene to detect and render safe any potential incendiary devices. “Based on information gleaned during the course of the investigation, there is a probability of explosive devices being found outside and inside the residence,” the force said.

The Office of the State Medical Examiner has dispatched it Mass Casualty Team out of Roanoke to assist with victim recovery and identification, examination and cause of death. Once identifications of the victims are confirmed, their next of kin will be notified.

It is not yet clear what caused Speight to, allegedly, carry out the murders. Police say his motives remain under investigation and charges are pending. The Appomattox Sheriff’s Office is consulting with the Office of the Appomattox County Commonwealth’s Attorney.

Police say Speight was acquainted with the victims and had lived at the residence where the murders took place. He co-owns the residence, as well as owns land adjacent to the residence.

As the search was still ongoing earlier on Wednesday, authorities also decided to close all Appomattox County public schools as precautionary measure for their safety. The school closure included the county’s four schools with a student population of about 2,000 and also Cornerstone Christian Academy, which was locked down on Tuesday as a result of the incident.

Earlier, authorities were also searching for two vehicles belonging to Speight. Both were recovered on Wednesday morning.

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, Holliday Lake State Park Rangers, and ATF were involved in the search and recovery of the suspect.

Anyone who has information about the killing spree is asked to call the Virginia State Police Appomattox Division at 434-352-3419 or the Appomattox County Sheriff’s Office at 434-352-8241. Authorities said anonymous calls are welcome.

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