BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) – A judge on Wednesday found an Alabama preacher not guilty by reason of insanity in a shooting that left his wife dead and his daughter wounded.
Jefferson County Circuit Judge Tommy Nail issued the ruling during a non-jury hearing in which a psychologist testified that he and two other experts determined the Rev. Terry Greer was mentally incapacitated and didn’t know right from wrong when he shot the two on Jan. 10, 2013.
Prosecutors and the defense waived having a jury present and agreed to have the judge hear evidence on Greer’s mental capacity.
After shooting his wife Lisa Greer in the family’s church-owned home, authorities have said Terry Greer, former pastor at Gardendale-Mt. Vernon United Methodist Church, stabbed himself eight times in the chest. He was found with a knife protruding from his body when police arrived.
Greer’s daughter, Suzanna, was able to escape and recovered from gunshot wounds.
Prosecutor Laura Poston said Greer’s daughter told investigators that her father had been acting oddly the morning of the shooting, and at one point asked: “What if we all just drive up to heaven today?”
Greer was involved in a car crash and also fell nearly a dozen feet from a deck months before the shooting, said Dr. Glen King, a forensic psychologist testifying for the state. More critically, King said, the minister suffered from dementia and severe depression that likely triggered the violence.
King testified that Greer remains a danger to himself and others. Nail agreed and ordered Greer to be committed to a state mental facility.
Greer will initially be housed in a jail-like hospital in Tuscaloosa, but he could be placed in a less-restrictive setting should his condition improve.
Poston said she doesn’t believe Greer will ever leave the custody of a state mental health agency because of his dementia.
“I thought the judge made the only decision he could make,” she said.
Greer, wearing a striped jail uniform, glanced back and appeared to smile at his daughter as he entered court. She sat quietly and occasionally dabbed her nose with a tissue.
Greer’s attorney, Mark Polson, described the case as a tragedy.
“His family is destroyed, his church family is saddened by the loss of a life,” he said.
Greer, who has been jailed since leaving the hospital where he recovered from his wounds, remains a United Methodist minister but is suspended from all duties and is no longer paid.
Greer served at the Gardendale church north of Birmingham for only a few months before he began withdrawing from duties as his condition deteriorated, members and church officials have said. He previously worked at a Methodist church in Decatur.
(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)