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Tenn. Church
Rampage Suspect Eyes Insanity Defense

Tenn. Church
Rampage Suspect Eyes Insanity Defense

An unemployed truck driver accused in a fatal church shooting plans an insanity defense for the rampage that left two people dead and six wounded, his lawyer said Wednesday.

An unemployed truck driver accused in a fatal church shooting plans an insanity defense for the rampage that left two people dead and six wounded, his lawyer said Wednesday.

Jim D. Adkisson, 58, waived a preliminary hearing Wednesday in what public defender Mark Stephens called a move to lay the groundwork for an insanity plea by getting his client's mental state evaluated as soon as possible.

Stephens said Tennessee law requires that the case get to the criminal court level before the defense receives money to pay for a mental evaluation.

"It is my burden to prove that he was insane at the time of the commission of the offense," Stephens said outside court. "It is absolutely critical a mental health expert see him now at this critical stage."

Prosecutors have agreed to move the case quickly to the grand jury, which is expected to return an indictment with additional charges, possibly in a few weeks, Stephens said.

Adkisson, 58, is currently charged with a single count of first-degree murder and remains held on $1 million bond.

Prosecutors allege that Adkisson fired three blasts with a sawed-off shotgun on July 27 at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville.

Police say Adkisson targeted the church because of its liberal leanings, citing a letter they found in his small SUV in the church parking lot and a statement he allegedly gave after the shooting.

Stephens said that in Tennessee in modern times, a "jury has never found a defendant not guilty by reason of insanity in a contested case. There have been times when defendants have been found not guilty by reason of insanity but that is usually by agreement with the prosecutors."

"So how difficult is it? It is difficult," he said.

Knoxville Police Chief Sterling Owen IV said Adkisson bought the shotgun at a pawn shop about a month before the shooting, and his letter was written about a week before the tragedy.

Adkisson carried 76 shells into the church, according to investigators. Police say he told them he expected to keep shooting until officers killed him.

Killed were 60-year-old Greg McKendry, a burly usher and church officer who was hailed as a hero for shielding others from gunfire, and 61-year-old Linda Kraeger, a retired English professor who had come to see a friend's grandchild perform in the church play.

At least one of the wounded remained hospitalized.

The 400-member church has a long history of supporting liberal issues and causes, including racial desegregation, environmentalism, women's rights and gay rights.

Adkisson's former wife, Liza Alexander, was once a member of the congregation, though it was so long ago church members say they can't remember her.

They were married almost 10 years when she obtained an order of protection against him in 2000, claiming he threatened "to blow my brains out" and she feared for her life. (AP)

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