Witnesses take stand in Morva trial

Mar. 8--ABINGDON -- The widow of Cpl. Eric Sutphin spoke publicly about her husband's killing for the first time Friday when she took the witness stand at the trial for the man charged with murder in his death.

As Sutphin's patrol bicycle stood in front of the prosecution's table, Tamara Sutphin cried as she described the last contact she had with her husband.

He called her the morning of Aug. 21, 2006, to tell her he was headed toward the Huckleberry Trail because there had been numerous sightings of William Morva there.

He had planned to spend the day with his twin daughters, but, he told his wife, he would be late coming home from work and had asked his mother to keep an eye on the girls.

Morva, 26, is accused of killing Sutphin, of the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office, as he patrolled the Huckleberry Trail during a manhunt for him early that morning. Morva also is accused of killing Derrick McFarland, a security guard at Montgomery Regional Hospital, the day before as he escaped from the hospital, where he had been treated for injuries.

Morva is being tried in Washington County Circuit Court on seven felony charges, including three counts of capital murder -- one in each death and a third because he is accused of killing more than one person in less than three years.

Jurors heard from 15 witnesses Friday, the second day of testimony in the case.

As Tamara Sutphin sat on the witness stand, Montgomery County Deputy Chief Commonwealth's Attorney Mary Pettitt played a recording of Eric Sutphin's last police radio transmissions.

A voice that Tamara Sutphin identified as being her husband's could be heard saying, "The subject's in a back yard up there ... he took off running on me."

As the recording played for several minutes, other officers could be heard calling for rescue and saying, "It's 10-33," which means an emergency.

Minutes after he had reported seeing Morva near the Huckleberry Trail, Sutphin was found with a bullet wound at the base of his skull.

David Carter, who lived at the time in an apartment on Edgewood Lane that backs up to the trail, testified Friday that he was sitting at his computer that morning when his dog barked.

He looked outside to see Sutphin in his back yard, looking for something. He watched as Sutphin walked back up a short path to the trail.

Minutes later, Carter said, he heard two exclamations that he said sounded like warnings, then two gunshots in quick succession.

He looked back outside and saw Sutphin fall down the path he had just climbed up.

Carter said he heard a slapping noise that sounded like flip-flops and looked toward the trail. He saw a man draped in a white sheet running down the trail toward the gazebo.

Several people testified Friday that they saw Morva draped in a white sheet on the trail that morning.

Carter said he grabbed a phone and called 911. As he was on the phone, he ran "to see if I could help the fallen officer."

Blacksburg police Officer Brian Roe was the first officer to arrive after Sutphin was shot. He said he drove his motorcycle down the trail and passed several deputies who were running in the same direction.

"I could see a bicycle laying on the side," he said Friday on the witness stand. Nearby was a pair of tennis shoes. Sutphin lay at the bottom of the path, his gun still in its holster.

Roe said he couldn't find any vital signs on Sutphin.

Hours later, Roe and Blacksburg police Officer Ryan Hite were on the team that found Morva, who lay flat on his back with his arms crossed over his chest, dressed only in blue boxer shorts in a ditch in a thicket of 6-foot-tall brush near the trail, officers said.

Hite testified that he and another officer grabbed Morva's hands and pulled him out of the ditch he had hidden in. They rolled him onto his stomach, handcuffed him and shackled his legs, they said.

Four or five officers carried Morva up the embankment and into a waiting police car, they said.

As they drove him away, Hite said, they heard Morva say, "I didn't mean to hurt anybody."

Chuck Eaton, a special agent with the Virginia State Police, testified that when he later interviewed Morva in jail, he asked what he meant by that.

Morva corrected him, Eaton said, saying: "What I said was I didn't mean to hurt your friend."

Copyright (c) 2008, The Roanoke Times, Va. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.