APPOMATTOX, Virginia – A security guard accused of killing his sister, her husband and six others had a history of mental problems and imagined his sister wanted to kick him out of the home they shared, relatives and others who knew him said.
Police say Christopher Speight, 39, killed his sister, brother-in-law, niece, nephew and four other people early Tuesday before firing on a police helicopter, hiding in the woods and finally surrendering nearly a day later.
Speight had struggled since his mother died from brain cancer in 2006, his uncle Thomas Giglio said Thursday. Speight's father abandoned them some 30 years ago, and he and his mother were very close.
"There was a problem with him after his mother died," Giglio said in a phone interview. "He didn't take it good at all. I don't think he ever reconciled it."
Lynchburg attorney Harry Devening, who handled legal matters for Speight's family, said Speight had an apparent learning disability and history of mental problems, and "ran away" from his sister's Georgia home for several days during a breakdown in 2007, about a year after his mother died.
Giglio said brother-in-law Dwayne Sipe, one of the shooting victims, found him in a motel room along a highway. Even then, the family had no reason to suspect Speight might turn violent. Giglio said he last spoke to Dwayne Sipe the Saturday before the shootings and everything seemed fine.
"I never heard of any quarrels about Christopher living in the house, ever," Giglio said.
Speight is charged with one count of murder and will likely face more charges. Seven bodies were found in and around the home he shared with Lauralee and Dwayne Sipe, including theirs. An eighth person was found barely alive along the road and died at the hospital.
Jail officials would not allow an Associated Press reporter to see Speight on Thursday and did not know if he had an attorney. No court date has been set.
Police have not offered a motive, but David Anderson, who owns a market where Speight sometimes worked as a security guard, said Speight worried the Sipes would kick him out.
Speight never wanted to talk about it, but he "constantly paced the floor," Anderson said.
The other victims included Morgan Dobyns, Lauralee Sipe's 15-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, and 4-year-old Joshua Sipe, Lauralee and Dwayne's son. Also killed were Morgan's friend, 15-year-old Emily Quarles, and her boyfriend, 16-year-old Ronald "Bo" Scruggs, along with Quarles' parents, Karen and Jonathan Quarles, both 43, who were there to either drop off or pick up Emily.