Police investigate motive in Appomattox killings

From Staff, AP reports
Posted by Phil Riggan – email

APPOMATTOX, VA (WWBT) – Although police won't confirm it, friends, family and court records suggest 39-year-old Christopher Speight was in a battle with his sister over property, their mother had left them jointly when she passed away in 2006.

At issue are the 34 acres of wooded farmland and a 3-bedroom house in Appomattox, which had been long occupied by Speight. But according to court documents, was co-owned by his younger sister, Lauralee Sipe.

About a year ago, his sister, her husband and their children left Georgia and moved in with him.

According to friends, soon after arriving, they offered to help Christopher build a second house on the land, where he could live.

This apparently caused great anxiety in the house. The accused shooter told people he felt he was being pushed out of his own house.

Speight was charged late Wednesday with one count of murder and is likely to face additional charges.

State police identified the victims as Lauralee and Dewayne Sipes, both 38, along with 16-year-old Ronald Scruggs; 15-year-old Emily Quarles; 43-year-old Karen and Jonathan Quarles; 15-year-old Morgan Dobyns; and 4-year-old Joshua Sipe.

According to the Associated Press, an attorney said Speight had a history of mental problems. Lynchburg attorney Henry Devening handled legal matters for the Speight family. The owner of a market where Speight worked as a security guard says Speight was worried about his sister and brother-in-law kicking him out of the house where they all lived. The sister and brother-in-law were among the shooting victims.

But Devening says he doesn't understand how Speight could have thought that. He says Speight's sister last week signed a deed putting the Appomattox property in Speight's name.

Devening says Speight had a history of mental problems and ran away from his sister's Georgia home during a breakdown in 2007.

The three teenagers were students at Appomattox County High School, which planned to have grief counselors posted throughout the school Thursday.

Classes at Appomattox County Public Schools were delayed by two hours Thursday so staff would have time to "prepare to talk with their students about the tragedy," according to a release by the school system. Counselors were also on hand. Students are trying to plan a memorial.

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