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After a 2002 shooting spree took the life of a law school dean and two others on its campus, the Appalachian School of Law is getting back on track. The fledgling law school, tucked in the rural town of Grundy, Va., opened in 1997 under the direction of founding Dean L. Anthony Sutin, a Harvard graduate and a former assistant attorney general at the U.S. Department of Justice. By 2001, enrollment was growing and the school had received preliminary accreditation by the American Bar Association. But that promising start was staggered in January 2002, when a disgruntled former student gunned down Sutin, along with Professor Thomas Blackwell and Angela Dales, a student who worked on campus. In all, three people were killed and three others injured. The shooter, Peter Odighizuwa, 43, was a naturalized U.S. citizen from Nigeria who became enraged after he flunked out of the school. He was disarmed by two other students. Odighizuwa pleaded guilty to the slayings and was sentenced to six consecutive life terms plus 28 years on firearms, capital murder and attempted capital murder charges. Three years later, the law school has begun putting the pieces back together. In January 2003, the school hired a new dean, W. Jeremy Davis, who spent 20 years as the dean of the University of North Dakota School of Law. With Davis in place, the school picked up where it left off with the ABA accreditation process. This month it was visited by a review team, and expects to receive final accreditation approval when the ABA meets in either August 2005 or February 2006. “[Accreditation] is the good housekeeping seal of approval,” said the school’s president, Lucius F. Ellsworth. “It is important to prospective employers, to faculty and prospective students that over time the accreditation is achieved and maintained.” Ellsworth does not believe that the tragedy made the school less desirable or that it made accreditation more difficult. On the advice of counsel, the school’s insurance company paid out settlements with some of the victim’s families, Ellsworth said. But, if anything, the tragedy drew the community closer in support of the school, he said. “Certainly the people here at the time, the staff and the students, found a lot of common feelings out of that experience,” Ellsworth said. “It drew the community in closer.” Enrollment has been on a steady rise. The school had a student body of 170 at the time of the shooting and this year is nearly at full enrollment with about 350 students. Its entering class was made up of students from 23 states. The shooting was not one of the subjects discussed by the ABA review team, according to the school’s president. The reviewers looked at the school’s facilities, talked to faculty and sat in on classes. The review team was chaired by Dean Chuck Goldner of the Bowen School of Law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, who did not return phone calls seeking comment. One other member of the review team declined comment.

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