Wednesday, August 23, 2006
How did Morva escape?
Jail officials reveal how William Morva overpowered a deputy Sunday morning.
- Homicide on the Huckleberry: An interactive project tracing Morva's steps on the Huckleberry Trail in 2007
CHRISTIANSBURG -- The day after a 37-hour manhunt ended, the Montgomery County Sheriff's Department gave a detailed account Tuesday about how accused killer William Charles Morva escaped from police custody Sunday.
Sheriff's department Capt. Robert Hall, who oversees the Montgomery County Jail, stressed that officials were still piecing together accounts of the events for an ongoing investigation but said he didn't want to hide anything about what happened.
Hall said that at 10:15 p.m. Saturday Morva told jail staff he fell out of bed and injured his right wrist and ankle. He was examined by medical staff at the jail. They recommended he be taken to the Montgomery Regional Hospital.
He left the jail, supervised by a sheriff's deputy, at 11:40 p.m. Because of his injuries, Morva's right wrist was not cuffed, Hall said. His left wrist was attached to a chain on his waist. The deputy took leg irons in case they were needed in the hospital but did not attach them to Morva because of his ankle injury.
Hall said that at the hospital, X-rays were taken of Morva's ankle and wrist, which were both diagnosed as severely sprained.
Morva then asked to use the bathroom and was taken to a one-toilet room while the deputy waited outside in the hallway. After going to the bathroom, Morva said he needed help pulling his pants up because of his injury.
When the deputy went in to help him with his pants, Hall said, Morva hit him over the head with a metal toilet-paper container, knocking him unconscious.
Morva then took the deputy's gun and, once in the hallway, shot hospital security guard Derrick McFarland and shot through a locked glass door to escape about 2:35 a.m., Hall said.
McFarland died from his wounds. Morva also is accused of killing Sheriff's Deputy Eric E. Sutphin Monday during his long flight from police.
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Jail policy is for one officer to oversee one inmate during transfers unless the inmate is deemed a security risk, Hall said. It's up to medical staff to decide if a prisoner should not be cuffed because of the risk of further injury.
"This guy had been here over a year," Hall said of Morva, "and there was no indication of anything out of the ordinary with him as far as -- security-wise," Hall said.
The policy is being reviewed and, in the meantime, two deputies will guard an inmate during any transfers from jail. Hall said Sheriff Tommy Whitt is meeting with hospital staff to discuss procedures.
"If anything needs to be changed, we'll change it," Hall said.
Morva was arraigned Tuesday on charges from Sunday's escape. In addition to capital murder, he faces charges of use of a firearm in commission of a felony, escape by force, and felony assault and battery on a law enforcement officer.
He was arraigned via video in the Montgomery County magistrate's office and is being held in the New River Valley Regional Jail in Dublin.
Morva is also expected to be charged this week in relation to Sutphin's death, Montgomery County Commonwealth's Attorney Brad Finch said.
Montgomery County Lt. Brian Wright said Sutphin was on bike patrol on the Huckleberry Trail Monday morning when he confronted Morva and was shot. He said Sutphin frequently patrolled the trail on bike but wouldn't have been on the Blacksburg section of the trail if not for the search. He wouldn't give any other details of the shooting.
While details about the escape were coming to light Tuesday, other questions about Sunday's and Monday's events remained.
The Montgomery County Sheriff's Office is protecting the identity of the deputy wounded during Morva's escape from the hospital. Court records refer to him as "John Doe." Wright said the deputy's name was not being given "for his well-being while he's recovering."
Wright said the deputy suffered facial fractures and a concussion Sunday but was not shot. Hall said the deputy left the hospital Tuesday morning.
When Morva escaped he was facing robbery, weapons and burglary charges related to an attempted armed robbery of the Deli Mart on Glade Road in Blacksburg in August 2005. He was scheduled to go to trial on those charges today, but that trial has been postponed until Nov. 29.
Had Morva pleaded guilty to the robbery charges, the guidelines for his punishment would have been between three years and four years and four months, said Thomas DeBusk, his attorney for those charges.
DeBusk said Morva was offered a plea bargain that carried a sentence of three years and six months if he pleaded guilty. He didn't accept it and that was taken off the table about three weeks ago. DeBusk was unsure if Morva was going to plead guilty to the robbery charges or not.
He said Morva was doing as well as could be expected under the circumstances Tuesday. DeBusk became Morva's attorney in March and described him as an intelligent person who is "very much a thinker."
"He's never been involved with the law before and I think that was difficult for him," he said.
DeBusk said he would get together to discuss Morva's situation with the attorneys appointed to defend him for his latest charges: Roanoke attorney Anthony Anderson and Steven Milani of the Virginia Capital Defender's Office's western region.
Contacted Tuesday, Anderson said he planned to meet with Morva for the first time Tuesday night and it was too early to comment on his new client's case. The next court date for charges from Sunday's events is Oct. 11.
Morva's brother Michael Akos Morva also was arraigned Tuesday on charges of marijuana possession and conspiring with a prisoner to escape from a correctional facility.
He had been subpoenaed to testify in his brother's defense on the robbery charges. But he sought to distance himself from his younger sibling in comments made as he was being escorted from the courthouse back to the jail.
"My brother is the killer -- all right?" he shouted at television cameras. "I didn't do anything, I wasn't a part of it. ... This is wrong."
Michael Morva, 26, was arrested Sunday morning.
According to court records the conspiracy charges stem from events that occurred between Jan. 4 and 15 of this year -- not during Sunday's escape. His court date has been set for Oct. 17.
He also faces a handful of other burglary and grand larceny charges and is due in court for those on Sept. 6.
No bail was set for either man.
DeBusk said he saw no signs that William Morva was particularly desperate and never asked about a psychiatric evaluation for him, but that could change.
"Obviously circumstances are a little different now than they were before," he said.
Staff writer Albert Raboteau contributed to this report.