Accused pastor killer is ruled unfit for trial

| October 20, 2009

MARYVILLE – A Madison County judge ruled today that Terry Joe Sedlacek is unfit to stand trial on charges that he murdered the pastor of a Maryville church during a sermon in March.

Circuit Judge Richard Tognarelli cited a psychologist's finding that Sedlacek suffers from schizophrenia, has difficulty communicating with his attorneys, would have difficulty following court proceedings and would be unable to respond to questions in a relevant manner during pleadings or testimony.

Sedlacek, 27, of Troy, Ill., is accused of the fatal shooting of the Rev. Fred Winters, killed as he delivered a sermon at First Baptist Church of Maryville on March 8. Sedlacek is also accused of stabbing Terry Bullard and Keith Melton, church members who came to Winters' aid.

Tognarelli ordered Sedlacek transferred to the Illinois Department of Human Services for treatment and evaluation in a secure mental health facility. Within 30 days, the Department of Human Services must report to the judge on whether Sedlacek is likely to be fit to stand trial within a year.

Madison County State's Attorney William Mudge announced in March that his office would not seek the death penalty against Sedlacek, in part because of questions about his mental health.

"If he responds to treatment and is subsequently found fit to stand trial, the People of the State of Illinois stand ready to prosecute this case and seek justice for the victims, their families, the congregation at First Baptist Church of Maryville, and the citizens of this state,” Mudge said in a written statement Tuesday.

Tognarelli had ordered Sedlacek evaluated by psychologist Robert Heilbronner, who is from the Chicago area.

"This is clearly the correct finding based on what (defense attorneys) have observed," said Madison County Public Defender John Rekowski, one of Sedlacek's attorneys. In a motion for the fitness evaluation, defense attorneys said Sedlacek suffered from delusions and hallucinations and was unable to communicate effectively with them.

"Clearly, Terry is unfit at this time," Rekowski said today. He said Sedlacek's family members were pleased with the judge's ruling but concerned about where he will be placed and what treatment he will get.

Authorities said Sedlacek was armed with a .45-caliber handgun and enough ammunition to kill 30 people when he approached the pastor and began firing. The first shot hit a Bible Winters was holding, sending shreds of paper flying. Some in the pews at first thought it was confetti.

Three more shots were fired. Sedlacek and Winters were struggling on the floor when Bullard and Melton pulled Sedlacek away. He stabbed himself before being subdued.

Later, in Sedlacek's home, police found two more firearms and a day planner that included the entry "Death Day" for March 8.

At his arraignment in March, after Rekowski had entered not-guilty pleas to the charges in his behalf, Sedlacek told Circuit Judge Charles Romani: "My plea is guilty." Romani then told Sedlacek that not-guilty pleas had already been entered and advised him to discuss the matter further with his lawyers. He is being held without bail.

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Category: Church Security

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