Page last updated at 05:02 GMT, Thursday, 21 January 2010

Virginia shootings suspect Speight charged with murder

Suspected gunman Christopher Speight (centre) is led out of police HQ in Appomattox, 20 January
The suspect was brought to state police headquarters in Appomattox

A man suspected of shooting dead eight people in the US state of Virginia has been charged with one count of first degree murder.

Officials say Christopher Speight, 39, could also face other charges.

Police earlier found a "multitude" of explosives at a home where most of the victims were shot on Tuesday.

Bomb experts searched the rural property near Appomattox after Mr Speight gave himself up after an all-night manhunt.

The victims have been identified as four adults, three teenagers and a four-year-old boy.

The Washington Post reported that some of the victims were Mr Speight's relatives.

Police found three bodies inside his house and another four outside. The eighth victim was the man found injured in the street.


Mr Speight turned himself in at about 0710 (1210 GMT) on Wednesday after an all-night stand-off with police, who had surrounded woodland just outside Appomattox.

The local sheriff said Mr Speight was wearing a bullet-proof vest when he surrendered, but was not armed and did not need any medical attention.

Sheriff O Wilson Staples said the suspect had shot at a helicopter which had been called to the scene, hitting its fuel tanks and forcing it to land.

Police are still searching for the high-powered rifle he is believed to have used. The sheriff said that based on the weapons found in the house, it was likely the suspect had been trained in the use of firearms.

'Motive unclear'

A spokesman for Virginia's governor said the suspect was being debriefed and was being very co-operative, although a motive for the shooting was still being investigated.

News of the shootings broke on Tuesday afternoon and everyday life in the area was paralysed, with local schools closing down as police hunted for the gunman.

The authorities were first alerted when they received a call about an injured person lying in the middle of a road.

When a deputy arrived at the scene, he heard gunfire and called for back-up.

The injured man was taken to hospital where he died of his wounds.

Police from across the state were brought into the densely wooded area, which is about 100 miles (160km) south-west of Virginia's capital, Richmond.

Police dogs and a National Guard helicopter with thermal imaging equipment were used to search the woods.

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Mr Speight is the co-owner of the house in Snapps Mill Road, where the first reported victim was found.

He also owns a large tract of land next to the house.

County Administrator Aileen Ferguson said it was one of the worst mass killings in Virginia's history, "probably the worst since the Virginia Tech killings in 2007", when a student shot 32 people .

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