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Pastor’s accused killer found unfit for trial

MARYVILLE, Ill. (BP)–The man accused of the March 8 murder of Illinois pastor Fred Winters has been ruled unfit to stand trial.

Madison County Judge Richard Tognarelli, in an Oct. 20 ruling, cited a psychologist’s report which stated Terry Joe Sedlacek, 27, is schizophrenic and unlikely to be able to participate in his own defense at trial.

Sedlacek is accused of entering First Baptist Church in Maryville, Ill., during the 8:15 a.m. service and shooting Winters in the chest as he delivered his sermon. Sedlacek also is accused of stabbing two church members who tried to stop the attack. He had no known connection to Winters or the church.

Tognarelli remanded Sedlacek to the custody of the Illinois Department of Human Services for treatment and evaluation in a secure mental health facility.

The Department of Human Services must report back to the court in 30 days whether Sedlacek would be fit to stand trial within one year.

Winters’ widow, Cindy, released the following statement: “I continue to pray for Terry Sedlacek and his family. I hope he receives the help and care he needs, but ultimately my prayer is that he finds peace with God. Over the last several months I have had numerous interactions with the Madison County State Attorney’s Office and those in law enforcement. I have the utmost respect for these individuals as well as for the judicial system of our country. My main concern at this time is not about the legal issues surrounding March 8th, but for my family’s emotional and spiritual health.”

As the church continues to recover, its attendance, baptisms and giving have increased. A statement on the church’s website reads, “God is stirring us, His people, toward something special. May we collectively seek God’s face through prayer, exhibit His patience as we continue on, and live our lives with passionate purpose.”

The church recently called Tom Hufty, vice president for collegiate affairs at Hannibal-LaGrange College in Hannibal, Mo., as interim pastor until a senior pastor is chosen. Hufty will fulfill pulpit responsibilities while the church’s associate pastors will continue to have day-to-day responsibility for the workings of the church.

Winters, 45, led the church for 22 years, seeing it grow from 30 members to more than 1,500. In addition to his wife, he is survived by their two daughters.
Lisa Sergent is associate editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper, on the Web at www.ibsa.org/illinoisbaptist/current.

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  • Lisa Sergent