OGDEN, Utah (AP) — A Utah man who entered a Father's Day Mass hand-in-hand with his wife then shot her dad in the head seconds later was sentenced Thursday to four years to life in prison for attempted murder.
James Evans, who survived the shooting at an Ogden church, spoke at the hearing Thursday, and asked the judge to send Charles Richard Jennings Jr. to prison for as long as the law allows. Judge W. Brent West told Jennings what he did was horrendous, The Salt Lake Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/1mf7zx4).
"You shook the foundation of our entire community," West said. "I'm left with the impression that you are a danger." Jennings, 36, took a plea deal in November, pleading guilty and mentally ill to charges of attempted murder and aggravated burglary. He also acknowledged a firearms violation.
About 300 people were standing up for communion during Father's Day Mass last June when Jennings entered St. James the Just Catholic Church holding his wife Cheryl's hand. Seconds later, police say, Jennings fired a single shot at the back of Evans' head. The gunshot pierced the silence, sending people diving for cover beneath pews.
The point-blank shot could have killed the 66-year-old Evans, doctors said. His wife, Tara Evans, who was standing next to him, said her husband turned his head at the last moment. The bullet went through an ear and out a cheek, missing his brain.
Tara Evans also spoke during the hearing, asking the judge to deliver the maximum sentence. She told the judge that their daughter said Jennings was upset that day because she planned to come look at vacation photos after Mass.
She said her son-in-law aimed the gun at her after shooting her husband, but parishioners rushed toward him. "Jim and I were to be killed execution-style," she said, the Tribune reported. "He needs to be locked up and throw away the key."
Jennings' attorney, Michael Bouwhuis, said Jennings' mental instability led to the shooting. He said Jennings was having a psychotic episode on the day of the shooting. "He was mad and the voices influenced him to shoot the victim," said Bouwhuis, the Tribune reported.
Jennings was ruled competent to stand trial last year. Jennings also received sentences of six years to life for each burglary count and one year in jail for the firearms charge, the Tribune reported.
Court records show Jennings has a criminal record going back to 1996. Over the years, he has pleaded no contest to felony charges of receiving a stolen vehicle and criminal trespassing. He also has pleaded guilty to theft charges and a felony charge of attempting to tamper with a witness or juror.