VESTAVIA HILLS, Ala. (TCD) — A 71-year-old man pleaded guilty this week to capital murder in connection with the shooting deaths of two women and one man at a church potluck last year.
The Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office announced in a statement Wednesday, May 3, that Robert Smith entered the plea for intentionally killing Jane Pounds, Walter Rainey, and Sarah Yeager at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church on June 16, 2022.
Prosecutors charged Smith with capital murder of two or more persons, which meant he would have been sentenced to life in prison without parole or the death penalty. The District Attorney’s Office said their office would typically try this type of case in front of a jury and seek the death penalty, but that “was not the wish of the three families in this case.”
The families told the District Attorney’s Office they would rather see Smith plead guilty to capital murder and serve life in prison.
According to the statement, Smith will not be able to appeal.
On June 16, 2022, at 6:22 p.m., the Vestavia Hills Police and Fire Departments received a call about an active shooter situation at the church. Vestavia Hills Police said the victims were at a “Boomers Potluck” dinner at the church when the shooting broke out, and the suspected shooter was an “occasional attendee of the church.”
Eighty-four-year-old Rainey died at the scene, while 75-year-old Yeager and 84-year-old Pounds died at the hospital.
AL.com reports a motive for the shooting is still unknown. One of the potluck attendees reportedly hit Smith with a chair and helped get the gun away from him.
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