|Appalachian School of Law Shootings|
Thu, 17 Jan 2002
Mourners lit candles, then sat silently in their glow.
One day after gunfire shattered the serenity of this tiny, southwest Virginia town, there seemed little anyone at the Appalachian School of Law and the community it calls home could do but sit in silence, lost in their agony and questions of “why?”
“Columbine seemed like a world away, until lunch yesterday,” the Rev. Stan Parris told a few hundred people at a memorial service at Grundy Baptist Church.
On Wednesday, a disgruntled student upset about flunking out of the law school arrived with a .380 pistol and shot dead the dean, a professor and a student. Three other students were wounded, and they remained hospitalized Thursday.
Peter Odighizuwa, 43, was charged Thursday with three counts of capital murder, three counts of attempted capital murder and six felony firearms charges. Prosecutor Sheila Tolliver said outside the church that she would seek the death penalty.
Tolliver then entered the school’s cafeteria with about 150 others to watch the memorial service on closed-circuit TV because the church couldn’t hold everyone.
Dean L. Anthony Sutin, 42, and Professor Thomas Blackwell, 41, were killed in their offices. Student Angela Dales, 33, of Vansant, died later, also from a gunshot wound.
In Grundy, a gritty coal town of about 1,100 in the shadow of two great mountain ridges, violent crime has been an infrequent occurrence, Parris told the mourners.
He asked them to pray, and reassured them that “God will bring justice.”
Some were still shaken by the events of Wednesday, and by the losses.
“We’ve never had something this scary,” said Constance C. Bausell, 52, a school teacher who said she knew Blackwell from the church they both attended.
After the service, a few hundred students, families and residents gathered to cry. Nearby, people placed roses and carnations at the base of the stone school sign in a makeshift memorial, the American flag on the school lawn at half mast above.
“We feel in our hearts the deepest pain,” said Rabbi Stanley Funston, who leads a synagogue in Bluefield, W.V. that Sutin attended during the holidays.
Sutin was a hands-on administrator who knew his students’ names, they said.
“He just had this integrity about him,” said Mary Kilpatrick, who will graduate in a semester.
Brian Floyd, 27, said Sutin checked on him when Floyd went to the hospital last April with a bleeding ulcer.
“He called me at the hospital from his office just to see how I was doing,” Floyd said.
Blackwell was remembered as an avid runner and trumpet player.
“I knew him from choir,” said Kenneth Brown, 28, a first-year law student. “We were going to start a little band.”
Dales, a single mother, was a boisterous person putting herself through school.
“She was just this high-tempo person,” said Alex VanBuren, 32, of Johnson City, Tenn. “She always got good grades.”