The Advocate July/Aug 2022
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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.

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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