Video: Pastor killed in church shooting

updated 3/9/2009 8:38:33 PM ET 2009-03-10T00:38:33

The man charged with gunning down a pastor in mid-sermon and then stabbing two churchgoers had marked the day as "death day" in a planner found in his home and carried enough ammunition to kill 30 people, a prosecutor said Monday.

Madison County State's Attorney William Mudge said he had no details on the reference in alleged gunman Terry J. Sedlacek's day planner, only that it singled out Sunday as "death day."

"The only thing I can really comment on is he came armed with many rounds of ammunition and a knife, and I think we can surmise that more bloodshed may have occurred," Mudge said.

Sedlacek, 27, of Troy, was charged Monday with first-degree murder and aggravated battery in the attack at First Baptist Church that killed the Rev. Fred Winters and left Sedlacek and two congregants who tackled him with stab wounds.

Neither Mudge nor Illinois State Police would comment on a possible motive or on Sedlacek's mental state when he allegedly strode into the church shortly after 8 a.m. Sunday, exchanged words with Winters and began firing a handgun.

"We're still not sure what the reasoning was," said state police Lt. Scott Compton, adding that investigators had not yet interviewed Sedlacek.

Sedlacek has suffered bouts of erratic behavior his family has attributed to Lyme disease.

Symptoms disputed
Verna Giley, 59, said Monday she worked with Sedlacek at a restaurant in nearby Alhambra that was owned by his mother and stepfather, Robert and Ruth Abernathy, before it was sold at auction last fall.

Giley said Sedlacek had been a quiet teen. But after his Lyme disease diagnosis and a hospitalization when Giley said he almost died, he began making odd noises and his body would sometimes jerk. She said he never was threatening.

"They've tried all different kinds of treatments, but it seems nothing helped," Giley said of the Abernathys.

Sedlacek's attorney, Ron Slemer, told the Belleville News-Democrat on Monday that his client has deteriorated both mentally and physically since contracting Lyme disease.

But Dr. Eugene Shapiro, a Lyme disease expert at Yale University, said it would be unlikely that tickborne ailment would make someone so violent.

"Lyme disease doesn't cause people to shoot people," Shapiro said.

A phone call to a number listed for Robert and Ruth Abernathy in Troy rang unanswered Monday. One of Sedlacek's aunts, Joann Self of Glen Carbon, said the family had no comment.

Slemer said his client's family is "very sorry for the pastor's congregation.

Mudge said Sedlacek had 10 rounds of ammunition in a handgun and was carrying two more 10-round magazines in his pocket on Sunday. The .45-caliber Glock jammed after four shots were fired at Winters, prosecutors said, but not before one bullet fatally struck him in the heart after he deflected the first with his Bible.

Sedlacek was ordered held without bond even as he remained hospitalized Monday in serious condition. Authorities said he stabbed himself in the throat while being wrestled to the ground by the two congregants.

One of them, 39-year-old Terry Bullard, also remained in serious condition Monday. The other, Keith Melton, was treated and released.

Mudge said it appeared Sedlacek may have arrived at the church, about four miles from his home, as early as 5:30 a.m. Sunday, partly because his Jeep was in a parking space close to a door in the crowded parking lot.

"We think he intended to do this," he said.

'We actually pray for him'
But neither Mudge nor state police could say Monday whether Sedlacek knew Winters, a married father of two who had led the church for nearly 22 years.

"We actually pray for him," First Baptist Associate Pastor Mark Jones said of Sedlacek. Jones said one of the church's pastors visited with Sedlacek's family Monday.

"He apparently has a second chance," Jones said. "I believe that he's alive and that maybe he too needs to go back to the Bible and read that book and ask the question `is this really God's word and do I need to reconsider some things?'"

None of the 150 worshippers attending the Sunday service seemed to recognize Sedlacek, and investigators did not know details of Winters' conversation with him but planned to review an audio recording of the service. Compton said he didn't know if investigators had reviewed the audio Monday.

Bullet through the heart
Several well-wishers stopped Monday at the church, where emotions remained raw. Gwen Lawson, 23, fought an icy wind as she pushed her 1-year-old son in his stroller after visiting the church, where her husband ministers to college-age students.

"I really haven't had time to process it all," she said, her voice choking and her eyes welling. "I don't want to go through the details; it's just a very tragic event."

Winters deflected the first of the gunman's four rounds with a Bible, sending a confetti-like spray of paper into the air in a horrifying scene worshippers initially thought was a skit, police said.

He had stood on an elevated platform to deliver his sermon about finding happiness in the workplace, and witnesses said he managed to run halfway down the sanctuary's side aisle before collapsing.

Autopsy results showed Winters was hit with one bullet that went straight through his heart, Madison County Coroner Steve Nonn said Monday. Nonn would not comment on the distance between the gunman and the pastor.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments