Man pleads guilty in Tennessee church shooting

By: By DUNCAN MANSFIELD, Associated Press Writer
By: By DUNCAN MANSFIELD, Associated Press Writer

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - An out-of-work truck driver pleaded guilty Monday and was sentenced to life in prison without parole for killing two people and wounding six others with a shotgun in a Tennessee church last summer.

Jim D. Adkisson, 58, had been scheduled to stand trial next month, likely claiming an insanity defense, but his public defender said last week his client changed his mind.

After Adkisson entered his plea, Criminal Court Judge Mary Beth Leibowitz sentenced him to life in prison without parole.

Adkisson was accused of pulling a sawed-off shotgun from a guitar case on July 27, 2008, and firing three deadly blasts into an audience watching a Sunday morning children's performance of the musical "Annie." Members of the audience of about 200 subdued him.

Police say Adkisson targeted the church because of its liberal open-door policies, including acceptance of gays, and fully expected to keep shooting until responding officers killed him.

Greg McKendry, a burly 60-year-old usher, was hailed as a hero for shielding others from gunfire. He was fatally shot along with 61-year-old Linda Kraeger, a retired English professor who had come to see a friend's grandchild in the play.

Adkisson faced two counts of first-degree murder and six counts of attempted first-degree murder. Each murder charge carried a possible life sentence and each attempted-murder count up to 25 years in prison.

Adkisson had been scheduled to stand trial on March 16. His public defender, Mark Stephens, indicated last year an insanity defense was planned.

The church issued a statement last week saying the justice system was providing an "appropriate sentence" for Adkisson's crimes.

The Unitarian Universalist church promotes progressive social work, including advocacy of women and gay rights.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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