Church shooting suspect eyes insanity defense

Image: Jim Adkisson
Accused church shooter Jim D. Adkisson in court Wednesday in Knoxville, Tenn. Wade Payne / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

An out-of-work truck driver accused of killing two people and wounding six others in a shooting at a Unitarian church plans an insanity defense, his lawyer said.

Jim D. Adkisson, 58, waived a preliminary hearing Wednesday in what public defender Mark Stephens called a move to lay the groundwork for an insanity plea by getting his client's mental state evaluated as soon as possible.

Stephens said Tennessee law requires that the case get to the criminal court level before the defense receives money to pay for a mental evaluation.

"It is my burden to prove that he was insane at the time of the commission of the offense," Stephens said outside court. "It is absolutely critical a mental health expert see him now at this critical stage."

Prosecutors have agreed to move the case quickly to the grand jury, which is expected to return an indictment with additional charges, possibly in a few weeks, Stephens said.

Adkisson currently is charged with a single count of first-degree murder and remains held on $1 million bond.

Prosecutors allege that Adkisson fired three blasts with a sawed-off shotgun on July 27 at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville. He reportedly left a note suggesting that he targeted the congregation out of hatred for its liberal policies

Killed were 60-year-old Greg McKendry, a burly usher and church officer who was hailed as a hero for shielding others from gunfire, and 61-year-old Linda Kraeger, a retired English professor who had come to see a friend's grandchild perform in the church play.

At least one of the wounded remained hospitalized.

Adkisson's former wife was once a member of the congregation.