Suspect in law school shooting says he's innocent

Associated Press Writer

October 31, 2003

GRUNDY, Va. -- A former student accused of going on a shooting spree last year at the Appalachian College of Law stood up at the end of a hearing Friday and told the judge he's innocent in the murders of three people.

"I plead not guilty by reason of insanity," Peter Odighizuwa told Judge Michael Moore. "I was insane at the time of the offense."

But Moore said he was not asking for a plea Friday. He told Odighizuwa he could enter his plea later. Trial was set for May 24, 2004.

Odighizuwa, a 45-year-old Nigerian, is accused of going on a shooting spree Jan. 16, 2002, shortly after learning he had flunked out of law school. Appalachian Law Dean Anthony Sutin, professor Thomas Blackwell and student Angela Dales died in the attack. Three other students were wounded.

Odighizuwa was indicted earlier this month on three counts of capital murder, three counts of attempted murder, and six counts of illegal use of a firearm.

He has been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and was found incompetent to stand trial last year. However, a state psychologist testified that Odighizuwa has now improved enough, after treatment at Central State Hospital, to stand trial.

Buchanan County General District Judge Fred Combs ruled Odighizuwa mentally competent in September.

Odighizuwa has claimed in rambling letters and courtroom rants that he is the victim of a government conspiracy. Earlier evaluations documented widespread delusions, including his belief that he was being framed by the FBI.

Psychologist Greg Wolber wrote in a mental health report that Odighizuwa complained that the FBI was setting off fire alarms at the mental hospital to aggravate him, and that demonic spirits have been harassing him. But he no longer believed that his attorneys were working with the FBI, as he has stated earlier.

Asked by the judge Friday if he sees any reason his attorneys should be replaced, Odighizuwa responded: "There's no reason."

According to Wolber, Odighizuwa understands the charges against him and is able to assist his attorneys--the two elements required by state law for a finding of mental competency.