Adkisson pleads guilty to fatal Knoxville church shootings

Adkisson pleads guilty to fatal Knoxville church shootings

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Jim Adkisson Jim Adkisson

By HANA KIM
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) -- Jim Adkisson pleaded guilty Monday to charges of murder and attempted murder at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in July 2008.

Adkisson, 58, received life without parole in exchange for his plea.

The shootings on July 27 killed two and wounded six at the church during a Sunday morning service when a children's musical was being performed.

Adkisson's attorney, Mark Stephens, says he had advised Adkisson to go to trial using the insanity defense, but Adkisson declined in favor of the plea deal he called "the honorable thing to do."

John Bohstedt, one of several men who wrestled Adkisson to the ground on the day of the shooting says, "There's no insanity defense that I can see, unbalance, yes, bitter, yes, evil, yes."

During the hearing, the prosecution said Adkisson planned the attack and he hated liberals and Democrats, which lead him to pick Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church for his attack.

In August, a grand jury handed down an indictment that charged Adkisson with a total of 10 counts. Those included the premeditated murders of Greg McKendry and Linda Kraeger.

Two of the counts were also for the murders of McKendry and Kraeger during other murder attempts.

Plus, Adkisson pleaded guilty Monday to attempting to kill: Joe Barnhart, Jack Barnhart, Betty Barnhart, Linda Chavez, Tammy Sommers and John Worth.

Tammy Sommers lives with four shotgun fragments in her head. "He needs to stay in prison, which is what's happening."

After the sentencing, several people told 6 News they're satisfied with the sentence, however Adkisson didn't seem remorseful, didn't apologize and they were offended by his demeanor in court.

"Today, he just sat there and sneered and seemed proud of it," Brian Griffith said.

"Just an arrogance and a pure evil, that's the only words I could use to describe what I saw," shootings witness Vicki Masters said. 

Several church members also said they were relieved the case didn't go to trial so the children who witnessed the shooting didn't have to relive it in court.

On Sunday, Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church celebrated its 60th anniversary and paid tribute to those killed and wounded last summer.

A library was dedicated to Linda Kraeger and the fellowship hall was dedicated to Greg McKendry.

"I am glad that the perpetrator is able to acknowledge publicly in the legal process what he did and I am also glad that this community and church are not subjected to public trial," said Rev. Bill Sinkford, president of the Unitarian Universalist Society.

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