Killer smiles, families weep as jury recommends death
A jury recommended the death penalty Thursday for a man who murdered a hospital security guard and a sheriff's deputy after escaping from custody.
Families of his victims and his own mother wept as the verdicts were read, but William Morva smiled slightly and snapped his fingers. He nodded to jurors and patted his attorney after he learned his fate.
"He seemed to be acting like he won the lottery," said Harold McFarland, whose son Derrick was one of Morva's victims.
It took about three hours for the Washington County jury to agree that Morva, 26, should be executed rather than face life in prison without parole. That's slightly less than it took the panel Tuesday to convict him of capital murder in the August 2006 killings.
Morva was a jail inmate who had been taken to a Blacksburg hospital for treatment of an injury when he overpowered a Montgomery County sheriff's deputy there. He used the deputy's pistol to shoot security guard Derrick McFarland, 32, who was unarmed.
A day later in the manhunt that followed, Morva shot 40-year-old sheriff's Cpl. Eric Sutphin, who was searching for the fugitive on a walking trail near the Virginia Tech campus.
Cindy McFarland, McFarland's widow, said her tears during the verdict were of happiness.
"He took two innocent people who didn't deserve to die, and now he deserves to die," she said.
Harold McFarland said after Thursday's verdict that he is not a vengeful person but that he thought the death penalty was appropriate in certain cases.
"This is one of them," he said.
Jurors heard heart-rending prosecution testimony about the victims' exemplary lives, but the defense portrayed the killer as an eccentric free spirit with a personality disorder.
Montgomery County Commonwealth's Attorney Brad Finch called for the death penalty in his closing argument, saying Morva's crimes met both legal conditions for the most severe punishment: presenting a danger to society and depravity of mind.
"He is both extremely intelligent and extremely violent," he said. "That is a deadly combination."
Morva "showed no mercy" when he shot McFarland in the face from two feet away, Finch said. He then had more than a day to think about what he had done before he shot Sutphin in the back of the head.
"It did not faze him," he said. "That is depraved."
Defense attorney Tony Anderson said that the killing spree was spawned by Morva's fear of returning to jail and that life in prison would be more severe punishment than death.
Anderson acknowledged that what Morva did was horrible and urged jurors to "lock that jail and throw away the key" because death would represent freedom to his client.
"Don't let your hands unlock the chains, open the door and allow Mr. Morva to escape again," he said.
High school friends of Morva's described him as caring and gentle. But a psychiatrist who examined him after his arrest said he exhibited nearly all of the traits of schizotypal personality disorder, which made him an intense, inflexible person who was unable to see the perspective of others.
The defense said Morva had felt a building sense of frustration in jail, where he had been held for months without bond after his arrest on attempted robbery charges.
The trial had been moved 100 miles from Montgomery County because of difficulty seating a jury there last fall.
This guys kind of pathedic. I'm glad he is getting the death penalty. I think this world should be peacful... not a place where you have to worry every second of the day about what might happen next. This guy deserves to get done to him what he did to the two other guys. What are you opinions on this??!?!