UPDATE: Va. Grand Jury Indicts Suspect in 8 Home Slayings

April 6, 2010

UPDATE:

A Virginia grand jury on Tuesday indicted a man on capital murder and other charges in the January slayings of eight people at a rural home that led to shoots being fired at a police helicopter and all-night manhunt.

The Appomattox County grand jury returned the indictments after hearing evidence against Christopher Speight, who had initially been charged with one count of first-degree murder - enough for authorities to hold him until the grand jury could meet.

The indictment lists three counts of capital murder plus one count of attempted capital murder of a police officer, one count of shooting into an occupied dwelling and four firearms charges.

Speight's arraignment is scheduled for Wednesday morning in Appomattox County Circuit Court. His lawyers, Neil Horn and C.J. Covati, did not immediately return phone messages after the indictments were returned.

Speight, 39, was arrested Jan. 20, a day after eight people were killed at the home he shared with his sister, her husband and their two children. Those family members were among the victims. Two neighbors, their teenage daughter and a teenage boy also were killed.

Police have said Speight killed the eight victims and fired several rounds from a high-powered rifle at a state police helicopter on Jan. 19, prompting a massive manhunt, then hid in the woods before surrendering the next day.

An investigator with the Appomattox County sheriff's office wrote in a search warrant in February that Speight confessed to shooting the eight victims. The warrant seeking a DNA sample from Speight was filed in Lynchburg Circuit Court. The investigator was one of seven police officers who appeared before the six-person grand jury.

The capital murder counts cited three provisions of the Virginia law that can result in the death penalty: murdering two or more people in a three-year period, committing multiple murders in the same incident, and murdering someone under the age of 14. Speight's nephew, Joshua Sipe, was 4.

Authorities have not given a motive for the killings. People who knew Speight say he had a history of mental breakdowns and may have become fixated on a notion that his sister, Lauralee Sipe, wanted to oust him from the house they shared. However, a family attorney has said Sipe's intention was to deed the property solely to her brother.

Investigators seized dozens of homemade explosive devices and fuses, multiple rounds of ammunition, several assault rifles and a 9-mm pistol from Speight's home in Appomattox, a county of about 15,000 about 100 miles southwest of Richmond. Appomattox is best known as the place where Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant to end the Civil War.

Speight is being held without bond.

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The case against the suspect in January's slayings of eight people in Virginia is going to a grand jury.

Christopher Speight is charged with one count of first-degree murder. An Appomattox County grand jury is expected to consider additional charges Tuesday.

The 39-year-old Speight was arrested Jan. 20, one day after eight people were killed at the home he shared with his sister, her husband and their two children. Those family members were among the victims.

Police have not given a motive for the killings. People who knew Speight say he had a history of mental breakdowns and may have become fixated on the notion that his sister wanted to oust him from the house they shared.

Speight is being held without bond.


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