Antioch church shooter Emanuel Samson sentenced to life without parole

Emanuel Samson in court 2

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Emanuel Samson will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole.  

The jury agreed with the prosecution Tuesday, that the Antioch church shooter should get the stiffest punishment, aside from the death penalty, for killing 39-year-old Melanie Crow-Smith.  

The 27-year-old was convicted on Friday of first-degree premeditated murder in connection to Crow-Smith’s death. 

Samson was also found guilty on an additional 42 charges related to the 2017 shooting rampage at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ.  

Samson kept his head down and showed no emotion as the jury read the verdict. 

MORE: Accused church shooter says he has mental illness, ‘doesn’t remember’ attack 

However, the victims and members of Burnette Chapel expressed relief after the verdict, though they couldn’t help but feel saddened by the fact that Samson used to attend their church. 

“We were nervous going in but now I feel better. I have more peace,” said Armilla Bishop. “The person I saw in that courtroom was a person that needed to be punished and go to jail for their actions. It was not the Emanuel that helped with bible school, or ate with us, or pushed cars out of snow, or smiled when you said hello. He had a big bright smile. That was not the same person.” 

Meanwhile, Samson’s defense attorney said she was disappointed by the jury’s decision. 

“There’s no doubt Samson has schizo-effective disorder and PTSD. He was not right on that day. I mean he’s never been in trouble before. All the testimony really shows he never had any problem with the church, they were kind to him, and he was good to them back. This is a tragic example of mental health,” said Jennifer Thompson. 

The prosecution said mental health aside, Samson knew exactly what he was doing on that day and then lied on the stand when he said he didn’t remember.

“I was disappointed that he wasn’t honest in my opinion,” said Assistant District Attorney Amy Hunter. “I felt like all of the victims in the case, certainly the family of Melanie Crow, they deserved a full and complete answer from him if he was going to avail himself of testifying. I was hopeful that he would give that to them, and he did not.” 

Because the premeditated murder charge carries an enhanced punishment, Tuesday’s hearing was held separately from the other 42 counts. 

The other sentencing hearing will be held sometime in July. 

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