|Appalachian School of Law Shootings|
Thu, 17 Jan 2002
The expelled law school student accused of killing his dean and two others in a campus shooting spree was so paranoid and prone to outbursts that at least one classmate said he saw the violence coming.
At Thursday’s arraignment on three counts of capital murder, Peter Odighizuwa, 43, told the judge he was sick and needed help.
“I was supposed to see my doctor,” Odighizuwa said, hiding his face behind a green arrest warrant. “He was supposed to help me out … I don’t have my medication.”
Police say Odighizuwa opened fire with a handgun at the Appalachian School of Law on Wednesday, a day after he was dismissed from the school for a second time.
Dean L. Anthony Sutin and Professor Thomas Blackwell were slain in their offices and student Angela Dales, 33, died later at a hospital. Three other students were wounded.
Prosecutor Sheila Tolliver said she will seek the death penalty.
Odighizuwa also faces three counts of attempted capital murder and six weapons charges. A few minutes before his arraignment, Odighizuwa told reporters as he was led into the courtroom, “I was sick, I was sick. I need help.”
Police said Odighizuwa was evaluated and given medication in jail, but declined to identify the drug.
On Thursday, students wept in small, shivering circles, many of them wondering about the classmate who always seemed aloof and was prone to vulgar outbursts.
Kenneth Brown, 28, said his friends always joked that Odighizuwa was one of those guys who would finally crack and bring a gun to school.
“He was kind of off-balance,” Brown said. “When we met last year, he actually came up and shook my hand and asked my name. Then, like five minutes later he came back and said, ‘You know I’m not crazy, but people tick me off sometimes.’ Out of the blue.”
Zeke Jackson, 40, said he stopped trying to recruit Odighizuwa for the school’s Black Law Students’ Association after Odighizuwa sent the dean a letter complaining that Jackson was harassing him.
“I knew he’d do something like this,” Jackson said.
Odighizuwa was arrested on Aug. 15 for allegedly assaulting his wife. The police report said he hit her in the face, bruising her right eye.
Police said Odighizuwa repeatedly approached them with concerns about people breaking into his house on the outskirts of this small town in western Virginia.
Chief Deputy Randall Ashby said Odighizuwa told police last year that someone placed a bullet in a stairway at his home. Three months ago, he complained again that his home has been broken into.
“Both times my deputies checked it out and found nothing,” Ashby said.
Odighizuwa also regularly visited the sheriff’s office to nitpick with deputies over the wording of the police reports he’d filed, Ashby said.
Despite Odighizuwa’s problems, the dean and others tried to help him through school. Last year, Sutin raised enough money to buy Odighizuwa a used car, clothes and food, according to students and staff.
Chris Clifton, the school’s financial aid officer, said Sutin also helped get Odighizuwa a $19,000 loan last fall.
“That’s what doesn’t make sense,” said Mary Kilpatrick, a third-year student, wondering aloud why Odighizuwa would kill the dean. “He’s the one who allowed him to stay here.”
Odighizuwa, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Nigeria, had been struggling in school for more than a year and had been dismissed before. His grades were poor again last semester, and school officials told Odighizuwa on Tuesday that they were flunking him.
“I don’t think Peter knew at this time that it was going to be permanent and final,” said Clifton, the financial aid officer. “He slung his chair across the room and slammed the door.”
The next day, after the rampage, witnesses say Odighizuwa left the building, dropped a gun and was tackled by several students.
After a tearful memorial service at Grundy Baptist Church, hundreds of people gathered to place flowers at the base of the school’s stone sign, under an American flag flying at half-staff.
“We feel in our hearts the deepest pain,” said Rabbi Stanley Funston of a synagogue in Bluefield, W.Va., that Sutin attended during the holidays.