Appalachian School of Law Shootings
       

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Fri, 18 Jan 2002

GRIEF FLOWS FROM GRUNDY AS IT MOURNS FOR VICTIMS

Paul Dellinger
Roanoke Times & World News (Roanoke, VA)

Hundreds of people turned out Thursday to honor three people killed a day earlier in a shooting spree at the Appalachian School of Law.

Tragedies at Columbine High School, Oklahoma City and the World Trade Center seemed far from this coalfield community, said the Rev. Stan Parris. “But now we, too, have tasted violence. . . . This is a terrible reminder of the reality of evil that exists in the human heart.”

The sanctuary and balcony of Grundy Baptist Church overflowed with faculty and students from the 5-year-old law school and friends and family of the three shooting victims: Anthony Sutin, 41, the school’s dean; Thomas Blackwell, 41, a professor; and Angela Dales, 33, who worked at the school before becoming a student.

Peter Odighizuwa, 42, a student who recently learned he would be dismissed because of insufficient grades, is charged with capital murder in all three deaths.

Three other students were injured and taken to two hospitals in Tennessee. Dr. Dale Sargent said Rebecca Brown, Martha Madeline Short and Stacey Beans were all in fair condition Thursday afternoon. “We would expect each of these patients to be released from the hospital within a week, and all are expected to make a full recovery,” he said.

Mikael Gross, one of several students who tackled Odighizuwa and held him for authorities Wednesday afternoon, said after the memorial service that Dales was his admissions counselor when he entered the school three years ago. Dales was in her first year of law school.

“It just doesn’t make any sense,” Mary Kilpatrick, a third-year student, said after the service. Kilpatrick said people at the school had obtained a car for Odighizuwa and helped him in other ways.

“Dean Sutin was one of the ones that was involved in that,” she said. “Everyone in this community, I feel like, has gone above and beyond to help him.”

Grundy Town Manager Chuck Crabtree said Gov. Mark Warner had wanted to attend the service, but scheduling did not allow it. Warner, who served on the law school’s board, sent a statement, in which he said the best memorial to the victims would be continued support of the school.

Warner said Sutin was at the height of his career in the U.S. Justice Department when he embraced the concept of a law school in Virginia’s coalfields and came to Buchanan County to help make it happen. Warner said he considered Blackwell a friend and remembered hiking with him and his family at Breaks Interstate Park.

Warner said he saluted the students who took control of “this barbaric situation.”

The memorial service was organized by the Buchanan County Ministerial Association.

The Rev. Paul McNalley opened the service with a prayer to “protect us all from the violence of others and keep us safe from the weapons of hate.” Rabbi Stanley Funston urged the community to keep its faith “in the face of senseless tragedy.”

Thursday night, about 250 people from the law school and the town attended a candlelight vigil in front of the school.

One speaker, professor Stewart Harris, said, “We are standing tonight on sacred ground. Innocent blood was shed here, blood of three people who achieved, who cared and who dreamed. . . . Let us honor them by keeping our own dreams alive.”

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