|Appalachian School of Law Shootings|
Thu, 17 Jan 2002
A former law student who is accused of killing his dean, a law professor and another student and wounding three others told a judge Thursday that he is sick and needs help.
Peter Odighizuwa, 43, shuffled into Buchanan County General District Court in leg chains, surrounded by police officers.
Hiding his face behind his green arrest warrant, Odighizuwa told Judge Patrick Johnson, “I was supposed to see my doctor. He was supposed to help me out … I don’t have my medication.”
Odighizuwa went to the Appalachian School of Law on Wednesday to talk to his dean, L. Anthony Sutin, about his dismissal, officials said. He shot Sutin and Professor Thomas Blackwell, who taught Odighizuwa’s contracts classes during the fall and winter, with a .380-caliber pistol, authorities and students said.
Also killed was student Angela Dales, 33, of Vansant, said State Police spokesman Mike Stater. Three injured students were hospitalized in fair condition.
Prosecutors have charged Odighizuwa with three counts of capital murder, three counts of attempted capital murder and six charges for use of a firearm in a felony.
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.”
Court records show that Odighizuwa was arrested Aug. 15 for assault and battery of his wife, Abieyuwa Odighizuwa. The police report said he hit his wife in the face with his fist and bruised her right eye. A hearing is set for Aug. 6.
When Johnson said he would appoint defense lawyer James C. Turk Jr. to represent him, Odighizuwa asked for Tazewell attorney James Carmody, who is representing him in the assault case. But Johnson appointed Turk and said, “Once you’ve talked with him, I’m sure you’ll see he can help you.”
Odighizuwa will remain held without bond pending a preliminary hearing March 21. Carmody declined to comment when reached by telephone.
Odighizuwa, known around the rural campus as “Peter O,” had been struggling with his grades for more than a year and had been dismissed once before. Chris Clifton, the school’s financial aid officer, met with Odighizuwa a day earlier when Odighizuwa learned he was to be kicked out of school.
“He was angry. He thought he was being treated unfairly, and he wanted to see his transcript,” Clifton said. Odighizuwa, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Nigeria, scheduled a meeting for Wednesday to talk to school officials about his grades.
“I don’t think Peter knew at this time that it was going to be permanent and final,” Clifton said.
Dr. Jack Briggs, who has a private practice a half-mile from the school, said Odighizuwa went downstairs from Sutin’s and Blackwell’s offices to a commons area and opened fire on the crowd there.
“When I got there there were bodies laying everywhere,” Briggs said.
Odighizuwa left the building and dropped his gun after being confronted by student Todd Ross of Johnson City, Tenn. Ross said he then tackled Odighizuwa, and two or three other students helped hold him down.
Odighizuwa kept saying, ‘“I have nowhere to go. I have nowhere to go.”’ Ross said.
Hospital officials identified the three wounded students as Rebecca Brown, 38, of Roanoke; Martha Madeline Short, 37, of Grundy; and Stacy Beans, 22, of Berea, Ky.
Justin Marlowe, a first-year law student from Richwood, W.Va., said the suspect had been in all of his classes.
“He was a real quiet guy who kept to himself. He didn’t talk to anybody, but he gave no indication that he was capable of something like this,” Marlowe said. He said “the dean bent over backwards to get him enrolled again” when Odighizuwa flunked out last spring.
Other classmates, however, described him as an “abrasive” person who would regularly have swearing outbursts in class when he was challenged by classmates or the professor.
“I knew he’d do something like this,” Zeke Jackson, 40, who tried to recruit him for the schools’ Black Law Students’ Association.
The private law school has an enrollment of about 170 students. It opened five years ago in a renovated junior high school to help ease a shortage of lawyers in the region and foster renewal in Appalachia.
Sutin, a 1984 graduate of Harvard Law School, also was an associate professor at the school. He left a Justice Department position as an assistant attorney general to found the school after working for the Democratic National Committee and Bill Clinton’s campaign in 1992, according to the Web site of Jurist, the Legal Education Network.
“My thoughts and prayers go out to Mr. Sutin’s wife, Margaret, their two children and to all of their family and friends,” said Attorney General John Ashcroft.
“The entire Department of Justice is mourning the loss of a dedicated public servant who served the Department of Justice with distinction, integrity and honor.”
Blackwell, who enjoyed running and playing trumpet, moved to the area from Dallas, Tex., about three years ago. Constance C. Bausell, 52, of Grundy, served with Blackwell on a committee at her church searching for a new pastor.
Even though Blackwell was new to the area, “he fit in like a glove,” Bausell said.