|Appalachian School of Law Shootings|
Fri, 18 Jan 2002
Peter Odighizuwa had a history of violent behavior that ended Wednesday in a shooting spree at the rural Appalachian Law School, leaving three dead, including L. Anthony Sutin, dean of the school and former Clinton administration official, and three others injured, police reported.
Court documents show that in August 2001, Mr. Odighizuwa, a Nigerian immigrant, was arrested in the assault and battery of his wife, Abieyuwa. Mrs. Odighizuwa was given an emergency protective order against her husband, and the charges were later suspended for a year, pending review. Another hearing in the matter was scheduled for Aug. 6.
Mr. Odighizuwa became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1989. It is not clear when he arrived in the United States, or under what circumstances he applied for citizenship. He spent most of the past 13 years in Chicago driving a taxi cab, before coming to ALS in 1999.
School officials said Mr. Odighizuwa went on a shooting rampage on Wednesday after being told he was not allowed to return because of poor grades. Fatally shot and killed along with Mr. Sutin, 42, were Thomas Blackwell, 41, an associate professor, and Angela Dales, 33, a student. Three other students injured and listed in fair condition were Rebecca Brown, 38; Martha Short, 37; and Stacey Bean, 22. The injured were taken to different hospitals.
Mr. Sutin, a 1984 graduate of Harvard Law School, left the District five years ago to help establish the law school, which opened in a renovated junior high school in Grundy, a small town a few miles from the Kentucky border. The school was established with the goal of bringing more lawyers to the southwest region of the state.
While in the District, Mr. Sutin had worked for the Hogan and Hartson law firm, the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton presidential campaign in 1992. He served as acting assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Affairs at the Department of Justice.
Yesterday, Mr. Odighizuwa, surrounded by police officers, shuffled into Buchanan County General District Court hiding his face behind a green arrest warrant.
“I was supposed to see my doctor. He was supposed to help me out. . . . I don’t have my medication,” he told Judge Patrick Johnson.
Mr. Odighizuwa was charged with three counts of capital murder and three counts of use of a firearm in a capital murder. He is also charged with three counts of attempted murder and three counts of attempted capital murder with a firearm. Messages were left on the cell phone and office phone of his attorney, James Turk Jr., but they were not returned.
Commonwealth Attorney Sheila Tolliver, who is prosecuting the case, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Those who knew Mr. Odighizuwa said he was strange and they didn’t seem surprised by his actions.
“Everyone on campus knew he was a real oddball,” said Dr. Jackie Briggs, Mr. Odighizuwa’s former physician, who tended to the ALS shooting victims. Dr. Briggs’ son-in-law attended classes with Mr. Odighizuwa and often told his father-in-law about the erratic behavior of “Peter O,” as he was known by other students.
“He would walk into a class and just start making demands of the professors.
. . . His mannerisms were very odd,” Dr. Briggs added.
Mrs. Odighizuwa left her husband three months ago, Dr. Briggs said. She is currently working at Buchanan General Hospital as a nurse’s aide. Friends said Mr. Odighizuwa was not able to support his family, so they collected a money for food for his four sons, ages 3 to 9.
“She has been a good employee, but of course she is distraught over the incident, and I think took her family to New York to be with relatives,” said Kemper Bausell, marketing director for Buchanan General Hospital, who added later, “she is a very pleasant person, but very hard-working.”
* This article is based in part on wire service reports.