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Man shot by son-in-law during Father’s Day church service shares his story

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Posted at 9:22 PM, Jan 24, 2014
and last updated 2014-01-24 23:22:54-05

OGDEN, Utah -- James Evans has barely any physical scarring left on his face today, but the emotional ones have yet to heal for both him and his wife.

“I thought he was going to die,” his wife, Tara Evans, said.

It’s been more than 7 months since the Evans’ son-in-law, Charles Jennings Jr., walked into their Catholic church in Ogden and shot Evans in the head.

Tara Evans spoke about that moment: “My first thought was, ‘Tara, he's in a state of grace. He's going to go home to Heaven. He's in a state of grace. He came to earth, he did what he came to do, he came to be close to God, it'll be OK.'"

The couple was in the middle of mass at St. James Catholic Church on June 16, Father’s Day, when they said Jennings showed up with their daughter.

“He went right behind Jim, right behind Jim, took out the gun and fired the gun,” Tara Evans said. “And then he turned and pointed the gun directly at my chest.”

Before he could pull the trigger again, Tara Evans said Jennings was chased out of the church by members of the congregation.

According to the couple, Jennings’ motive for the attempted killing stems from the abusive relationship he had with their daughter, one that on that morning, Tara Evans believes she had convinced her daughter to end.

“I said, ‘You need to get away from him. You can't keep doing this,’” she said.

They believe when Jennings found out, he wanted to retaliate.

“He came to do what he said he would do, kill me and Tara,” James Evans said. “He was going to show us and everybody else: This is what happens if you disobey me. I'll kill you.”

But instead, the plan failed. Rather than hitting Evans in the back of his head, the bullet entered through the side of his face, causing severe damage to his mouth, but not enough to kill him.

“When he shot, Jim turned his head at the very moment he shot and I don't believe it was Jim turning his head,” Tara Evans said. “I believe it was God turning his head.”

Today, both are still recovering.

“It took away some of my feelings of safety,” James Evans said. “I mean, now, if I'm in church and I hear the doors open, I turn and look, which I never did before.”

But despite the pain they’ve felt, they believe they will heal.

“The second week after the shooting we were back in church,” James Evans said. “I had an oxygen bottle, I had a feeding tube, I had bandages, but we were back in church and sitting at that same pew.”

Jennings has pleaded guilty and mentally ill to attempted murder and aggravated burglary charges. A sentencing hearing was scheduled for Thursday, however, a judge postponed it.

Because of the mentally ill plea, the judge has the option of sending Jennings to a state hospital, prior to prison. The court requested more information from the hospital before determining a sentence. The hearing was rescheduled to February 20. Jennings faces up to life in prison.