Sentencing delayed for man who committed Utah church shooting
Ogden • James Evans' wounds have healed: He has made a full physical recovery from the injuries he suffered when his son-in-law walked into his Catholic church during a Father's Day service and shot him in the head.
But St. James the Just Catholic Church's the Rev. Erik Richtsteig said there are emotional wounds still mending for those parishioners who witnessed Charles Jennings, Jr. walk into their peaceful church and fire a gun at Evans.
Richtsteig said many parishioners are still receiving counseling to help them overcome the traumatic events on that June day.
"I'm angry," Richtsteig told reporters Thursday. "The man desecrated my church â¦ There were little tiny children there. There were little tiny kids who had to see someone get shot."
Several people who witnessed the shooting came to Ogden's 2nd District Court on Thursday afternoon to see Jennings be sentenced for the crime. But they were met with disappointment when Judge David Hamilton postponed the sentencing, telling a packed courtroom that he wanted more information from the Utah State Hospital.
"We're disappointed that we weren't able to put a cap on this," Richtsteig said. "[But] we've waited this long. We can wait longer."
Jennings will be sentenced on Feb. 20. He faces up to life in prison.
The 35-year-old man pleaded guilty but mentally ill to attempted murder and two counts of aggravated burglary, all first-degree felonies, along with a misdemeanor possession of firearms charge. The mentally ill plea allows the judge to send Jennings to the state hospital for additional treatment, before the defendant goes to prison.
"I want to indicate to Mr. Jennings and everyone present that, in fact, Mr. Jennings is going to prison," Hamilton said, adding that he needs to decide if Jennings will go to prison immediately or after receiving treatment at the state hospital.
According to charging documents, Jennings walked into Ogden's St. James the Just Catholic Church, 495 N. Harrison Blvd., just before noon on June 16 and pulled out a gun.
He fired only one shot.
The bullet entered Evans' right ear and exited through his cheek, police said, causing neither death nor brain damage.
Richtsteig said Thursday that Jennings then pointed a gun toward Evans' wife, but ran from the church after a group of parishioners charged at the gunman. He fled to a nearby neighborhood, where he allegedly stole a truck from a resident at gunpoint, documents state.
He was found several hours later walking along Interstate 84 in Box Elder County after the truck ran out of gas. Officers say he was trying to flee to Idaho.
In September, Jennings was deemed competent to stand trial on the charges despite concerns from his defense attorney that he was acting under the influence of drugs or mental health issues at the time of the shooting.
Defense attorney Michael Bouwhuis said in September that although his client is able to comprehend what is happening in his case, questions remained questions about his competency and his ability to discern right from wrong at the time of the shooting.
Richtsteig said Thursday that he continually prays for Jennings, though the man made his church feel unsafe.
"He is a criminal. He is a drug addict. But I pray for him," Richtsteig said. "It's what the Lord Jesus told us to do. It doesn't mean we have to like it."