A jury on Tuesday convicted a jail inmate of capital murder for killing a hospital security guard and a sheriff’s deputy during an escape.
Jurors deliberated for about 3 1/2 hours before finding William Morva guilty of the August 2006 slayings in Montgomery County.
The same jurors began hearing testimony Tuesday afternoon in the penalty phase of the trial. The only two sentencing options in capital murder cases in Virginia are death or life in prison without parole.
Morva, 26, was convicted of overpowering a sheriff’s deputy at a hospital in Blacksburg and then using the deputy’s pistol to kill unarmed security guard Derrick McFarland. He also was found guilty of killing sheriff’s Cpl. Eric Sutphin one day later near the Virginia Tech campus.
During the manhunt for Morva, Virginia Tech canceled classes on the first day of its fall 2006 semester.
Relatives and colleagues of the victims testified through tears that the slayings have caused them nightmares. Their widows and several co-workers said they must take medication and receive counseling.
“This throws you into the pit of a torment you can’t imagine,” Jeaneen Sutphin testified as she described what it was like to lose her son. “My son didn’t have to die. This man deliberately shot him in the back of the head and killed him. He could have shot him in the leg so he wouldn’t pursue him.”
Cindy McFarland, McFarland’s widow, said she sometimes has had to leave work early because she “couldn’t deal with life” and that she had to switch from working the third shift to ease her children’s fears that “I wouldn’t come home.”
Derrick McFarland, who liked to cook, brought food to his Montgomery Regional Hospital co-workers and fixed their computer problems, according to his family and two nurses who were on duty the night he was slain.
“I lost a lot of my innocence that night,” said nurse Dawn Doss, who said she has left the hospital because she couldn’t stand to walk down the hallway where McFarland died.
The defense is to present its case for sparing Morva’s life Wednesday.
In the trial’s early guilt phase, the defense contended that 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. Defense attorney Thomas Blaylock said Morva suffered from mental problems and severe sinus and digestive difficulties.
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