William Morva is scheduled to die from lethal injection in Virginia today, July 6, for the murder of a security guard and deputy but supporters said the 35-year-old suffers from delusions and believed he was going to be killed.
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said Thursday that he would not stop Morva’s execution.
In a video seeking clemency, family and friends recount stories of a likeable teenager who developed clear signs of mental illness after dropping out of high school in his senior year.
Morva began sleeping in the woods, would walk barefoot without a jacket on the coldest day of winter, and unsettle those that cared for him with what seemed like bizarre pronouncements about the nature of life and reality. At one stage, he began a diet of a pound of raw buffalo meet as a way to get maximum nutrients.
Friends and family describe a man who also developed the belief that he has special mystical knowledge and saw himself as a Jesus-type figure.
In 2005, Morva was jailed on accusations that he tried to rob a convenience store when three men ran up to the automatic door, which did not open, and then ran away.
During a year in jail awaiting trial, Morva told his mother in a telephone call that he believed that he would die. He said he could not eat or go to the bathroom and that his body was going to give out.
He believed he was being denied medical treatment as a way to kill him.
“Look, don’t you understand that they are trying to keep me in here? Somebody wants me to die, and I don’t know who it is,” Morva told his mother in a call from jail, before his escape.
When he was taken to a hospital to treat an injury, he attacked a sheriff’s deputy with a metal toilet paper holder and stole the deputy’s gun. He then shot unarmed security guard Derrick McFarland and fled.
Morva shot and killed deputy Eric Sutphin the next day before being found in a ditch with the deputy’s gun nearby.
“William is mentally ill. He has never understood, completely, exactly what he did, the ramifications of what he did, the lives he has upset,” the man’s mother, Elizabeth Morva, said in the video.
Morva’s supporters had urged Gov. McAuliffe to halt the planned lethal injection and commute his sentence to life without parole. McAuliffe said Thursday that he would not.
They say that jurors were not aware of the severity of his mental illness, being told he suffered from a personality disorder that resulted in “odd beliefs,” but not delusions. Morva has since been diagnosed with delusional disorder, a schizophrenia-like condition that makes it impossible to distinguish between delusions and reality, his attorneys said.
Prosecutors have dismissed those claims, saying it was “highly inaccurate” to suggest that jurors didn’t have a full picture of Morva’s mental health.