APPOMATTOX, Va. – A security guard accused of killing his sister and seven other people during a rampage never recovered from his mother’s death several years ago, his uncle said Thursday.
Christopher Speight, 39, was charged late Wednesday with one count of murder and is likely to face additional charges.
The victims of Tuesday morning’s rampage included Speight’s sister, Lauralee Sipe, along with Sipe’s husband, 15-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son. The others were the 15-year-old’s friend and her parents, who were either dropping off or picking up their daughter, and a third teen.
“There was a problem with him after his mother died,” Speight’s uncle, Thomas Giglio said in a phone interview. “He didn’t take it good at all. I don’t think he ever reconciled it.”
Police have refused to offer a motive for the slayings, but David Anderson, who owns a market where Speight sometimes worked as a security guard, said Speight was worried about being turned out of the house where the killings took place. He co-owned it with Sipe.
Speight never wanted to talk about it, but he “constantly paced the floor,” said Anderson. “I thought he was going to wear a trench in it.”
Giglio said he had no indication that there were any concerns about Speight living in the house.
“This was his family,” Giglio said. “These were the people that loved him the most, that would do anything for him. Why? It’s absolutely cornball. It makes no sense. There’s no logic to it.”
Henry Devening, an attorney who handled legal matters for Speight’s family, also said Thursday he does not understand how Speight could have thought anyone was throwing him out. He said Speight’s sister was trying to do right by him, last week signing a deed that put the Appomattox property in his name as their grandparents had asked in a 2006 trust.
“My relationship with these folks was purely business, but Lauralee was a great person,” Devening said. “Very motivated to take care of the family. I can’t imagine why he would turn on her.”
Police found all of the bodies in or near the house. Speight gave himself up to police early Wednesday after leading investigators on an 18-hour manhunt through the woods. Police said he fired several times at a state police helicopter, rupturing its fuel tank and forcing it to land near the shooting scene. A bomb squad found explosives in the home, and crews were detonating the devices into the night.
State police identified the victims as Lauralee and Dewayne Sipe, both 38. Devening said they were husband and wife and 15-year-old Morgan Dobyns was Lauralee’s daughter from a previous marriage. Also killed was Lauralee and Dewayne’s son, 4-year-old Joshua Sipe, and 15-year-old Emily Quarles, a friend of Morgan’s, along with her parents, Karen and Jonathan Quarles, both 43. The eighth victim, 16-year-old Ronald “Bo” Scruggs, was Emily’s boyfriend.
Friends described Speight as a gun enthusiast. In 1995, he applied for a concealed weapons permit.
“I am a dependable, hardworking person, not quick to anger, and find ways to get out of problems without using force or violence,” Speight wrote in his application, which he renewed in 1997, 1999 and 2004.
No court date has been set for Speight. Officials declined to allow an Associated Press reporter see him Thursday and had no record of him having an attorney. Elton Blackstock, administrator of the Lynchburg Adult Detention Center, described Speight as co-operative with staff at the 600-inmate jail.
Weber reported from Atlanta. Associated Press writers Zinie Chen Sampson, Larry O’Dell and Dena Potter in Appomattox and Tim Huber in Charleston, West Virginia, contributed to this report.