Appomattox residents outraged with judges' ruling in murder case

By Tara Morgan - bio | email
Posted by Meg Thalhimer - email

APPOMATTOX, VA (WWBT) - Outrage in Appomattox County after a judge ruled the man accused of killing eight people, incompetent to stand trial.

40-year-old Christopher Speight will be sent to a psychiatric hospital in Petersburg until he's restored to competency.

People in Appomattox say they just want justice for the victim's families but believe that may not even be possible in this capital murder case. They think the judge made the wrong decision.

Raw emotions linger in this tight-knit community five months after a shooting rampage ended the lives of eight people, the youngest just four years old.

 "How can you just wipe out an entire family like that-two entire families," said Appomattox business owner, Beth Turner.

Turner knew Emily Quarles and her parents, Jonathan and Karen. She says Emily's father would stop by her gift shop for ice cream.

"Their house sits empty when you ride by it's kind of like wow," said Turner.

Turner believes the judge was wrong in ruling Speight incompetent to stand trial. Court documents state Speight has episodes in which he hears voices and sees entities.

"He had it very well planned and there's no way the judge could possibly think that," said Appomattox resident, Pamela Conner.

Authorities arrested Speight in January hours after a standoff at a home on Snapps Mill Road, where the bodies of seven people were found including Speight's sister. Passers-by came across the eighth victim on the road.

"I'll be honest will you, I don't feel he has a right to be around anymore," said Conner.

After undergoing a mental evaluation, a judge ordered Speight to Central State Hospital for treatment.

The Appomattox Commonwealth's Attorney told NBC12, restoring competency could take up to six months, depending on the person. In Speight's case, the judge will get a report back in 60 days from Central State on his state of mind.

"I feel like he was competent to do the things he did when he planned everything he did for his sister and his brother-in-law and that four-year-old child," said Conner.

If Speight is declared competent after treatment, he could stand trial.

Speight could then face the death penalty.

Copyright 2010 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.