Resolution closer in Illinois pastor killing case
ST. LOUIS (AP) — The case of a man accused of gunning down a southwestern Illinois pastor mid-sermon more than four years ago inched closer to a resolution Wednesday when prosecutors said they will stop contesting a finding that he remains mentally unfit to stand trial.
But Madison County State's Attorney Tom Gibbons' office still is working to schedule an examination by a psychiatrist of its choosing, Gibbons spokeswoman Stephanee Smith said. A three-judge panel of the 5th District Appellate Court ruled last month that the examination be limited to assessing Sedlacek's sanity at the time of the March 2009 fatal shooting of the Rev. Fred Winters in Maryville's First Baptist Church.
The appeals court has said that once the testing is completed, a circuit court judge will hold a hearing to decide whether Sedlacek is set free, ordered to stay in mental-health confinement or sent to prison.
Smith could not immediately say Wednesday when that examination would be arranged.
Sedlacek, 31, has been confined to mental health treatment in Alton, Ill., since he was found incompetent to stand trial months after prosecutors say he strolled into the Maryville church and confronted Winters, by all accounts a stranger. Sedlacek had suffered bouts of erratic behavior his family has attributed to tick-borne Lyme disease.
A not guilty plea was entered for Sedlacek after he tried during an early court appearance to plead guilty to first-degree murder and aggravated battery charges. His public defender has said he would pursue a defense of not guilty by reason of insanity.
Authorities have said Sedlacek drove his Jeep to the 1,500-member church from his home in nearby Troy, about 25 miles northeast of St. Louis, bringing with him a .45-caliber handgun and enough bullets to kill 30 people.
Witnesses said Sedlacek's eyes were fixed on the 45-year-old preacher as he calmly walked down the center aisle toward the altar. The confetti that rained from the pastor's Bible after the first shot made some of the 150 onlookers think at first it was a skit. Sedlacek fired three more times, with one bullet going through the pastor's heart as Winters tried to run, authorities said.
After Sedlacek's gun jammed, he pulled out a knife but was wrestled down by two congregants, police said. All three were wounded.