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Suspect in law school slayings arraigned

GRUNDY, Virginia (CNN) -- A man who police say killed three people and wounded three others at a law school was arraigned Thursday on capital murder charges.

Peter Odighizuwa, 43, did not enter a plea. A judge ordered a attorney appointed for him and set a court date for March 21.

Authorities said that Odighizuwa, who had flunked out of law school, opened fire with a .380 semiautomatic handgun just after 1 p.m. ET Wednesday.

One of those killed was the dean of Appalachian School of Law, L. Anthony Sutin, 42 -- a former acting assistant U.S. attorney general.

Killed along with Sutin were another faculty member, professor Thomas Blackwell, 41, and a student, Angela Denise Dales, 33, according to state police.

Students apparently tackled the gunman, said Ellen Qualls, press secretary for Virginia Gov. Mark Warner.

The dean of the Appalachian School of Law is among those killed by a lone gunman. WJHL reporters Amanda Coker and Patrick Sammon report (January 17)

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Dr. Jack Briggs, a physician and county coroner, describes what he saw when he arrived on the shooting scene (January 16)

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Dr. Jack Briggs describes the shooting scene
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Police said the Odighizuwa, from Nigeria, was charged with three counts of capital murder and three counts of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

He was being held in the Buchanan County jail, police said.

Authorities said that after Odighizuwa discussed his academic suspension with professor Dale Rubin he told the teacher to pray for him.

Then, police said, Odighizuwa went directly to the offices of Sutin and Blackwell and opened fire with a .38-caliber semi-automatic handgun.

Powder burns on the dean and the professor indicated they were shot at point blank range by the suspected gunman, said Dr. Jack Briggs, a coroner for Buchanan County.

"The dean of the law school had been executed in his office and a professor had been executed in his office," said Briggs. "The man then came down the stairs -- before we got there -- and shot four students."

Police said as Odighizuwa exited the building three other students grabbed and subdued him.

School administrators issued a statement saying they were shocked and saddened by the shooting. Classes were canceled for the rest of the week. A memorial service was set for noon Thursday.

This was Odighizuwa's second attempt at law school. The suspect had flunked out last year, said Briggs, a physician who treated Odighizuwa for stress about six months ago.

"I had no idea that it would affect him this way, however. He was a time bomb waiting to go off," Briggs said.

The three wounded students were taken to Buchanan General Hospital and later transferred to other hospitals for treatment.

All three wounded students are women, said Tim Baylor, spokesman for Wellmont Health System. Two of them were in surgery and the third was in fair condition, he said.

Appalachian Law School Dean L. Anthony Sutin was among those killed.  

Police said one student was shot in the abdomen and arm. A second student was shot in the throat and the third student suffered a gunshot wound to the chest.

The law school, with about 170 students enrolled, began offering classes in 1997 at a renovated junior high school about 45 miles north of Bristol.

The mission statement on its Web site says the general curriculum emphasizes dispute resolution, ethics and professional responsibility.

It has been granted provisional accreditation by the American Bar Association, according to the Web site.

Sutin had a prestigious law career, serving as acting general counsel for the Democratic Party and a lawyer for the 1992 presidential campaign of Bill Clinton.

He also held various positions in the U.S. Department of Justice, where he was appointed acting assistant attorney general for legislative affairs by then-U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno.

Attorney General John Ashcroft said his "thoughts and prayers go out to Mr. Sutin's wife, Margaret, their two children and all of their family and friends.

"The entire Department of Justice is mourning the loss of a dedicated public servant who served the Department of Justice with distinction, integrity and honor."

Ashcroft said Sutin left the Justice Department to help establish the law school.


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