Family and friends of those killed in the Spout Spring massacre are surprised two years later to still be learning information about how their loved ones perished.
The Appomattox County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office on Wednesday confirmed media reports earlier this week that some of those slain were killed as early as Jan. 17, 2010 — two days before their bodies were discovered — and not on Jan. 19 as is listed on the indictments.
Christopher Bryan Speight, 41, is facing three counts of capital murder in the slayings of his sister, her husband, his niece and nephew in a home they shared. A neighborhood couple and their teenage daughter, along with a teenage friend also were found dead at the home on Snapps Mill Road in Appomattox County.
Speight also is charged with the attempted capital murder of a Virginia State Police helicopter pilot who flew overhead after the victims were discovered. He shot the helicopter several times, forcing it to land in a nearby field, deputies said.
Melissa Stallard, the sister of victim Jonathan Quarles, said she always had been suspicious about the commonly understood sequence of events in the slayings.
“We had heard rumors the ones in the house had been shot before, but it was never confirmed,” she said.
Officials Wednesday said Lauralee Sipe, 37; her husband Shannon Sipe, 38; and their four-year-old son, Joshua, may have been killed two days before the others. The bodies of Lauralee, Speight’s sister, and her husband, Shannon, were found in the living room of the home. Their son’s body was discovered upstairs.
Investigators have said the bodies of Morgan Dobyns, 15, Lauralee’s daughter from another marriage; and Karen Quarles, 43, were discovered on the front porch of the house. Emily Quarles, also 15, was found deceased inside her mother’s vehicle in Speight’s driveway.
Dobyns had spent the night of the 18th and the morning of the 19th at the Quarles home about three miles away, according to investigators. Karen and Emily Quarles took the girl back home that morning.
That Karen Quarles was found on the porch never made sense, Stallard said.
“From the beginning, I believed there was no way Karen walked a 15-year-old to the door,” she said. “They were ambushed.”
Jonathan Quarles, 43, and Bo Scruggs, 16, left the Quarles home later that morning to check on the women when they didn’t return home.
Court records show Scruggs’ body was found in the driveway near their vehicle. Jonathan Quarles was found shot but still alive near the end of Speight’s driveway around noon Jan. 19, 2010 by passersby. He later died at Lynchburg General Hospital.
Speight surrendered to law enforcement officers the morning of Jan. 20 after an overnight standoff near the home.
Robert New, a close friend of Shannon Sipe’s who has served as a family spokesman and calls Sipe his “brother,” said he was unaware of the possibility Sipe had been killed on the 17th until a Tuesday television news report on WSET.
“Like everybody else,” he said.
New said the family would like to get the trial behind them, but are patient with the judicial process. Speight is set for a three-week trial starting June 11.
He said his emotional well-being isn’t tied to the case.
“This week my brother’s birthday is coming up,” he said. “We’ll get together for that. We don’t choose to dwell on what happened. We remember the good things about them.
“Personally, I’ve got a strong faith in God and I believe things happen for a reason. For me to dwell on it, I don’t need anything else. I’m moving on.”
Stallard’s sentiments were much the same.
“I struggle with the word forgiveness, but if it means I’ve put him out of my mind and what’s been done is done and I don’t waste any more time on him, if that’s what forgiveness means, I’ve forgiven him,” she said.
She is ambivalent, she said, when it comes to the possibility of Speight’s execution. She believes life in prison might be a more severe punishment.
“As long as he doesn’t walk,” she said. “As long as he can feel as bad as we do.”
Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Les Fleet said Wednesday no decision has been made to seek execution.
“We’re still looking at all the evidence,” Fleet said. “We want to wait for everything to come back — all the mental health evaluations, all the forensics. We have to.”
An affidavit filed in Appomattox County Circuit Court claims Speight confessed to the killings in an interview with Chief Deputy Donnie Simpson shortly after his arrest.
Speight’s defense lawyers have signaled they plan to use an insanity defense, and have claimed in court filings they have in the past been unable to communicate with him because of the severity of his hallucinations. He was declared incompetent to stand trial for much of 2010, and spent months at a state mental hospital.
A Speight family attorney said shortly after the slayings a change had been pending in the trust set up by their grandparents who owned the home he shared with his sister and her family.
Speight initially was named a trustee, but was removed in 2007 after their mother’s death and a mental breakdown, attorney Hal Devening said in 2010. Devening said he prepared legal documents the week before the slayings to remove Lauralee Sipe as a trustee and to put the trust back into Speight’s hands.
Because of the Lee-Jackson and Martin Luther King Jr. holidays on the 15th and 18th, the changes were never filed.
The owner of a Lynchburg convenience store where Speight sometimes worked as a security guard reported in the days following the slayings that Speight told her husband Saturday, Jan. 16, 2010, he was upset over a dispute with his sister about ownership of the property.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Darrel Puckett stated in several pretrial hearings he refuses to concede Speight was insane.
Speight is held without bond at the Lynchburg Adult Detention Center.