EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. — A man accused of gunning down an Illinois Baptist pastor in the middle of a worship service last March will undergo court-ordered testing to determine whether he is competent to stand trial.
According to the Belleville, Ill., News-Democrat, lawyers for Terry Sedlacek filed papers arguing their client is bipolar, schizophrenic and has “visual and auditory hallucinations.” Judge Richard Tognarelli of Madison County gave the prosecution and defense two weeks to submit names of experts they want to evaluate Sedlacek, who is charged with first-degree murder in the March 8 death of Fred Winters, pastor of First Baptist Church in Maryville, Ill.
Sedlacek, 27, had no known connection with the congregation before he allegedly walked down the sanctuary aisle and opened fire at Winters, 45, the church’s pastor of more than 20 years, as horrified worshipers looked on. Some men in the congregation managed to subdue the assailant, but not before one bullet went straight through Winters’ heart, killing him almost instantly.
After his arrest, an old newspaper report surfaced describing Sedlacek’s declining mental health, which his parents attributed to Lyme disease.
Meanwhile, First Baptist Church announced July 19 that the congregation was taking preliminary steps toward forming a pastor-search committee to find a replacement for Winters.
“The difficult part of this announcement is that since we are a large church family, we are a family encompassing a wide variety of emotions, thoughts, and dynamics in our lives,” said an article on the church web site. “Some desire to move forward, feeling the passion to see ‘Greater things have yet to come’ while others are hurting, still grieving, and desire to just wait a while longer.”
Once in place, leaders said they expect the search committee to work 12 to 24 months before recommending a new pastor, in order to give the church time to heal and embrace the future.
“It is very difficult for people to say goodbye to the familiar way of how things were done, say goodbye to the fond relationship and emotional bonds with Pastor Fred, and then be able to embrace a new way of doing things,” the statement said. “That’s a lot of change.”
Since the tragedy the church’s attendance is up, baptisms have increased and finances are stronger than they have been in a long time, according to the statement.
Recently the Southern Baptist Convention publishing arm honored Winters by naming him posthumously the first recipient of a new Holman Christian Study Bible Award honoring excellence in preaching and Bible teaching.
“The first HCSB Award goes to a former student of mine, a friend who led First Baptist to unprecedented growth and biblical faithfulness,” Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, said while presenting the award to Winters’ widow and daughters at the SBC annual meeting June 23. Rainer told messengers that Winters died “while he was preaching the word as he had done faithfully at First Baptist Church of Maryville for nearly 22 years.”
Since the tragedy a detective with the Madison County Sheriff’s Office has been speaking in area churches with a presentation he developed about improving congregational security plans.
“Churches should have a security plan, especially now,” Capt. Brad Wells, a 17-year veteran of law enforcement who now serves as the county’s chief of detectives, told the Alton Telegraph. “If somebody wants to do something bad, they are going to do it. But if you put a plan in place, you may prevent something worse from happening.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.)