Man Who Killed Near VT Denied Death Row Appeal

October 7, 2010

The U.S. Supreme Court has denied the appeal of a jail escapee who killed a hospital guard and a sheriff's deputy in a rampage that set off a manhunt near Virginia Tech.

William Morva appealed his 2008 capital murder conviction and death sentence in the death of hospital security guard Derrick McFarland and Cpl. Eric Sutphin in August 2006.

The Virginia Supreme Court last year rejected Morva's claim that he should have been allowed to present an expert's testimony on whether he would endanger guards or fellow inmates if the jury sentenced him to life in prison without parole.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused Monday to hear the appeal, as first reported by The Roanoke Times on Wednesday.

Morva was in jail awaiting trial on attempted robbery charges when he was taken to a Blacksburg hospital for treatment of an injury. He overpowered a Montgomery County sheriff's deputy in the hospital and used the deputy's pistol to shoot unarmed security guard McFarland, 32.

Morva shot Sutphin, 40, one day later on a walking trail near the Virginia Tech campus, which had been shut down on the first day of classes as police tracked Morva.

"This horrific crime has been tried in our courts and upheld on appeal at the highest level," Montgomery County Sheriff Tommy Whitt said in a statement. "This is evidence of justice being done in our courts."

Montgomery County Commonwealth's Attorney Brad Finch said he, too, was pleased with the Supreme Court's refusal to hear the case.

"This decision by the U.S. Supreme Court concludes a very important part of the appeals process, and it represents an important step towards justice for the victims and the victims' families," Finch said.

Morva's attorney, David I. Bruck, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

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