Thursday, May 11, 2017


Virginia Supreme Court Justice Cleo E. Powell through out the jury verdict holding Tech accountable for not warning the campus on April 16, 2007.

In her ruling, in the section of the ruling entitled “Facts and Proceedings,” the second paragraph, first and second sentences read:

“During the investigation, police came to believe that they were investigating a domestic homicide because there were no signs of forced entry or robbery. They believed that a “targeted shooting” had occurred…”

1. The fact is that the police did not do their duty. This was not a love triangle or “domestic homicide.” One simple question about the relationship between the two victims to any student whose room was near the crime scene would have debunked the love triangle or “domestic homicide” theory. 

2.   The fact is that there were bloody footprints leading away from the crime scene, and a bloody thumbprint on a door leading to the stairway, in a building in the middle of the campus.

3.   The fact is there was no evidence that the killer had left the campus.

4.   The fact is that Virginia Tech set its own precedent for warning a few months earlier when a killer, William Morva, was on the loose in Blacksburg. There was no evidence he was on the campus and yet the school locked down and warned the staff, faculty, and students.

5.   The fact is that portions of the school took the initiative and complied with Virginia Tech’s rules and locked down and warned.  Those parts of Virginia Tech were complying with the school’s own rules and the Clery Act; President Steger and Police Chief Wendell Flinchum were not.

6.   The fact is that the school had warned the campus before on numerous occasions for such things as mold and the flu, why not for murder?

7.   The fact is that Justice Powell and the Supreme Court accepted the explanation that the West Ambler Johnston Hall murders was an “… isolated incident and posed no danger to others …”  without asking what made the police think that someone who has murdered one student and wounded another is not a threat to others?

8.  The fact is that there is evidence that Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum may not have been telling the truth on the witness stand (during the Pryde and Peterson trial) about discussions which occurred on whether or not to warn and lock down the campus following the double homicide at West Ambler Johnston Hall. 

9.  The fact is that Judge Powell was wrong when she said on page two of her opinion that “…the Blacksburg Police Department led the investigation.” The 7:51 a.m. entry in the Governor’s Review Panel Report states, “Chief Flinchum contacts the Blacksburg Police Department (BPD) and requests a BPD evidence technician and BPD detective to assist with the investigation.” The report repeatedly has Chief Flinchum calling the shots and asking the BPD for officers and assistance.

The error raised in point #9 above is so disturbing that I decided to get to the bottom of it and wrote Blacksburg Chief of Police Kim Crannis asking the following:

“A question has arisen that you could help answer: The Governor’s Review Panel Report states that Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum was in charge of the investigation after the double homicide at West Ambler Johnston Hall.

“The decision written and made public by Virginia Supreme Court Justice Cleo E. Powell flatly states that you were in charge.

“Could you help me clarify the command? Did you assume control of the investigation from Chief Flinchum? If so, when? Did the change of incident command follow FEMA guidelines?”

Within days I received a letter from Chief Crannis in which she said the following:

“On that date, the Blacksburg Police Department responded to the request for assistance from the Virginia Tech Police Department, pursuant to a Mutual Aid Agreement between the Town and Virginia Tech. That agreement provided that ‘all law enforcement personnel responding to an emergency request as described in this agreement will report to an(d) take direction from the Chief of Police of the requesting agency.’”

In order to double check that Justice Powell was wrong, I then filed a Freedom of Information request with Steve Capaldo, Associate University Legal Counsel, Virginia Tech, asking for a copy of the agreement between the school and the town of Blacksburg. Here is what that agreement says in paragraph two on page two:

“2.  All law enforcement personnel responding to an emergency request as described in this agreement will report to and take direction from the Chief of {Police of the requesting agency or his/her designee. …”
Chief Flinchum was in charge—Justice Powell was just plain wrong. This mistake is so serious that it raises questions about the validity of the other assertions in her decisions. Indeed, Justice Powell and the rest of the court appear to have bent over backwards to view the evidence in a light most favorable the State and Virginia Tech. Furthermore, the Virginia Supreme Court’s error on this point is particularly troubling because it gives credence to speculation that the Court’s decision was politically motivated. In other words, the Court was determined to overturn the jury verdict of the Montgomery Circuit Court regardless of the facts and evidence.

On the witness stand Chief Flinchum admitted that he had the authority to issue a warning but indicated he never raised the subject with the school’s senior administrative group (called into session to discuss the murders). Flinchum’s denial that a warning or lockdown was discussed that morning stands at odds with the deposition taken from two notetakers at the meeting, Kim O’Rourke and Lisa Wilkes.  Ms. O’Rourke’s notes are especially damning. She wrote, “… police (read Chief Flinchum because he was the one communicating with the administrative group) don’t believe a lockdown is necessary at this time.”

The Supreme Court also did not consider the fact that a lockdown would have saved lives. Two students were allowed to leave West Ambler Johnston Hall and go their French class in Norris hall where they were slaughtered. A lockdown, then, would have saved a minimum of two lives; there is no disputing that fact. Justice Powell ignored it or was just plain ignorant of that detail.

In the “Facts and Proceedings” the Judge ends with the sentence “Police also learned that the female’s boyfriend was a gun enthusiast.” Judge Powell makes no further comment. I would ask Judge Powell to consider that probably more than half of the male students on the Virginia Tech campus are gun enthusiasts. So what is the point, judge? If being a gun enthusiast was enough cause to place a person suspicion, then definitely the campus should have been locked down and warned, and all those young men rounded up and questioned.

Justice Powell’s poorly written and obviously bias decision is jaw dropping. (To be continued)

No comments: