Appalachian School of Law Shootings
       

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Sun, 20 Jan 2002

Law School Shootings Neither …


The Washington Post

Neither of them was from Grundy, a small, struggling town in far southwest Virginia. L. Anthony Sutin was a former Justice Department official and Harvard Law School graduate from Washington. Peter Odighizuwa, born in Nigeria, was an ex-cabbie, late of Chicago.

Both Sutin and Odighizuwa came to Grundy because of the Appalachian School of Law, a start-up school in a refurbished junior high building that was intended to bring outsiders to the depressed coal-mining area. Sutin was the school’s dean, Odighizuwa a failing student.

On Wednesday, police say, Odighizuwa shot and killed Sutin, a professor and a 33-year-old student. Three other students were injured in the rampage, which apparently began when Odighizuwa received bad academic news and ended when three students—all former police officers—subdued him. “I guess a good word to describe everyone is amazed and shocked by what they’ve seen today,” said Bill Neeley, who lives in town and works in the corporate office of Food City. “You read and you hear about things like this, but you never expect it to happen here.”

Police said that Odighizuwa had a conference with a professor about his academic standing and that as he left, he told the professor to pray for him. He then walked into the office of Sutin, who had worked for the D.C. offices of Hogan & Hartson as well as the Democratic National Committee and Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign.

Sutin was shot at close range, authorities said. Odighizuwa then shot professor Thomas F. Blackwell in another office, walked downstairs and opened fire in a lounge, police said. Student Angela Denise Dales was killed, and the three others injured, before students grabbed Odighizuwa.

School officials, who had previously celebrated the life that the law school breathed into the town, were left wondering what the impact of Thursday’s events would be.

“We’ll go forward as we have since this school started,” said Joseph E. Wolfe, vice chairman of the board. “It’s certainly going to be something that’s going to be ingrained in the history of the school.”

Marty Schottenheimer was fired as head coach of the Washington Redskins last Sunday, and the next day former University of Florida coach Steve Spurrier was named his successor.

History will judge the import of these decisions, but Redskins fans were not as patient.

“A shame,” bartender Carl Monaco said. “Schottenheimer should have been given more of a shot.”

“I really think he could have turned it around,” building engineer Maurice Colter said.

Most Redskins fans said Schottenheimer wasn’t given enough time by team owner Dan Snyder. Snyder fired his coach after barely a year on the job—a year in which the team started 0-5 but came back to finish 8-8.

“I think Marty is a fine coach,” Snyder said the night of the firing. “But it became clear that the Redskins and Marty had irreconcilable differences.”

Schottenheimer mentioned the differences, too, at a cordial news conference in which he took the “high road” when asked about the firing. Schottenheimer said the disagreement with Snyder came when Schottenheimer refused to give up control over which players would be on the team.

The new coach, known for being outspoken while at Florida, told reporters that he had grown up a Redskins fan and that he looked forward to coaching in Washington.

“They’re the best fans in the NFL,” said Spurrier of his new constituents. “It’s so loud there.”

Fans in Washington also said they looked forward to Spurrier’s arrival, as well as his high-flying “Fun ‘n’ Gun” offense, which holds the promise of producing more touchdowns than Schottenheimer’s cautious system.

“I think it’s terrible to have abandoned” Schottenheimer, said Donald Tyghe, a patron at Mister Days sports bar in Arlington. “But I like the idea of having an air offense in town.”

The governors of Maryland and Virginia were both preaching frugality, as projected budget shortfalls caused them to suggest that their states dip into “rainy day” funds, cut spending and consider changes in tax policy.

Mark R. Warner (D), elected to the high office in Richmond this fall, made his first speech to the Republican-dominated General Assembly on Monday. Warner said that state budgets would have to be cut and suggested he would support a referendum on a tax increase to pay for transportation in Northern Virginia.

“I would like to tell you that our commonwealth’s finances are sound—but everyone in this chamber knows that they are not,” said Warner, speaking from the dais in the state’s House of Delegates. He formally endorsed dipping into the state’s rainy day fund for $ 467 million.

In Annapolis, Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) proposed his final state budget Tuesday. Glendening also proposed tapping emergency funds, and he said the state should delay a promised income tax cut.

Some in Annapolis criticized Glendening for using what they called one-time fixes. But Glendening said it was necessary to cut into the state’s savings to maintain social services.

“When the private sector is contracting, people turn to government for help,” he said. “We are the safety net.”

A four-legged, bushy-tailed intruder turned the normally staid U.S. Supreme Court building upside down.

A fox was seen scampering past the building’s security perimeter Sunday morning before it disappeared into a basement parking garage. Because foxes can carry rabies, court officials closed the building for a few hours while they looked for the animal. No luck.

Traps—humane, of course—were set to catch the animal. Fox-hunting dogs were brought in from an unnamed Virginia hunt club. One briefly picked up the animal’s scent in the basement, but then lost it.

Staffers were warned not to approach the animal, and (warily) court operations went on.

Foxes, apparently, are common in District parks, but have been seen more frequently in urban environments in recent days. Jim Monsma, of the Washington Humane Society, said the fox at the court could be a young male looking for his own territory.

“They’re real good at hiding,” Monsma said.

A D.C. slumlord, who agreed to live in one of his decrepit buildings to avoid a jail sentence, hasn’t been spending much time there after all, police said.

A D.C. police officer, assigned to make sure that Rufus Stancil really was living in the dilapidated building at 2922 Sherman Ave. NW, dropped by one morning to find that Stancil wasn’t there. Stancil admitted that he only was in the building from midnight to 5 a.m. most days.

That wasn’t good enough for District lawyers, who asked a judge to prescribe specific hours during which Stancil had to be in the building and to require him to wear an electronic monitoring device to ensure compliance. The Office of the Corporation Counsel specifically asked for Stancil to be in the building from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. weekdays, and all day on weekends except for blocks between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Stancil’s attorney insisted that “the court cannot worsen the sentence. There is a ton of case law on that.” He did, however, say that some compromise might be worked out that would require Stancil to be in the building by 10 p.m. weekdays. Stancil’s major objection was to the weekend requirements, the lawyer said.

Stancil pleaded guilty to 70 of 429 city housing code violations. His sentence also requires that he complete a renovation plan for the property.

* A Virginia laborer pleaded guilty to bank fraud Tuesday, admitting to charges that he bilked elderly people out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. According to documents filed in federal court, Larry Henderson befriended people with “diminished mental capacity” in Northern Virginia, and convinced them to pay him enormous sums—such as $ 9,000 to mow the lawn or $ 20,000 to trim the shrubs. Henderson could face 30 years in prison on the federal charges, in addition to the six-year state sentence he’s already serving for similar crimes.

* Prince George’s County settled a lawsuit with a man attacked by a county police dog in 1998. The victim, Andrew S. Amann, received more than 200 puncture wounds, though he lay down and surrendered. The officer involved, Cpl. Anthony Mileo, has a history of brutality complaints.

* Dogwood Elementary School in Reston reopened Monday, 14 months after it burned to the ground in a fire caused by faulty wiring. The school’s 550 students endured long bus rides to other schools while Dogwood was rebuilt.

– David A. Fahrenthold

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