Ogden man sentenced for church shooting

Posted at 2:50 PM, Feb 20, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-20 18:10:24-05

OGDEN -- A man who walked into the middle of a Catholic mass and shot his father-in-law in the head was sentenced to serve up to life in prison.

Charles "Ricky" Jennings Jr. was sentenced in 2nd District Court on Thursday to serve four years-to-life in prison for attempted murder and assault for the shooting at St. James Catholic Church. He was also sentenced to a pair of six-to-life terms, but those will run with the other sentence.

"I think it's a fair sentence," said James Evans, the shooting victim. "I pray for Ricky's soul, but I hope he's kept in jail for as long as he's dangerous to society and I think that will be his whole life."

Evans and his wife, Tara, were worshiping at St. James Catholic Church on Father's Day last year, when Jennings walked in, pulled out a gun and shot him in the head. James Evans turned his head at the right moment and the bullet went through his face.

"That miracle of just, that very second, and the bullet went right here," Tara said, motioning to her jaw.

"I must have been turning my head as he pulled the trigger, and that's the only thing that saved (me) and I think that saved my wife, too," James added.

Jennings pointed the gun at Tara Evans, who ducked down. Others in the church rushed Jennings who ran out of the church. He was arrested hours later.

Speaking at his sentencing, Tara Evans claimed Jennings had been abusive to her daughter and wanted to kill them so his daughter wouldn't look at family vacation photos. She accused Evans of controlling her daughter.

Jennings pleaded guilty but mentally ill to attempted murder and assault charges. At sentencing on Thursday, Jennings' attorney Mike Bouwhuis told the judge his client suffers from mental illness -- he has paranoia and hears voices in his head. He asked that Jennings serve part of his sentence at the state mental hospital.

"I think he's mentally ill, but I don't think this is due to mental illness," Tara Evans told reporters outside of court. "I think he chose himself. He chose evil himself."

Deputy Weber County Attorney Dean Saunders told the judge that much of Jennings' mental issues come from drug use and urged a prison sentence.

Judge Brent West rejected the request for a mental hospital and ordered Jennings to prison.

"This was a horrendous act," he told him. "You shook the foundation of our entire community."

Outside court, Father Erik Richtsteig said many in his church are still dealing with the fallout from the shooting -- and feared if Jennings should ever be released.

"I wish there were some part of the law that punished him for the desecration of the church, but I think the most important thing now is that he's not going to be in the position to hurt anyone outside," he said.