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Sentencing delayed for man who shot father-in-law in church

Published: Thursday, Jan. 23 2014 4:45 p.m. MST

OGDEN — The family of a man shot in the back of the head by his son-in-law as he knelt to pray in church will have to wait another month before they can put the incident to rest.

Charles "Ricky" Jennings, 35, was scheduled to be sentenced Thursday for the June 16 shooting of Jim Evans at the St. James the Just Catholic Church, 495 N. Harrison Blvd. Jennings pleaded guilty and mentally ill in November to charges of attempted murder and two counts of aggravated burglary, all first-degree felonies; and an amended charge of attempted possession of a firearm by a restricted person, a class A misdemeanor.

A small courtroom in the Ogden courthouse was packed Thursday, including more than a dozen people forced to stand because all the seats were taken. Evans, his family, people who were at the church on the day of the shooting and other supporters were in the courtroom, as well as members of Jennings' family.

But at the last minute, Judge Michael D. Lyon announced that he would delay sentencing until Feb. 20.

"The court finds itself in a position where there are gaps in the information to make a determination" about where to send Jennings, he said. "Mr. Jennings is going to prison. The question is whether it's now or after a period of time at the (Utah) State Hospital."

Lyon said he needed to receive more information from officials at the hospital before determining where to place Jennings.

For Evans, 66, and his wife Tara Evans, who had both planned on speaking to the court prior to sentencing, it was another disappointing delay in what has been a long road to healing and recovery. Both left the courtroom Thursday without speaking to media.

The Rev. Erik J. Richtsteig, pastor at St. James who was at the altar on the day Evans was shot in the head in the back pew of the church, said even for a man of God, the ordeal has by trying.

"I'm angry. The man desecrated my church. He, with callousness, shot a friend and a parishioner. He was going to shoot both (James and Tara). The bullet could have went through them and there were little tiny children. There were little tiny kids who had to see someone get shot. That's uncalled for. And the fact he has anyone here supporting him just boggles my mind," the Rev. Richtsteig said.

"He is a criminal. He is a drug addict. He committed an evil act. It takes a lot, for me personally, to pray for him everyday when I think of him. It's what the Lord Jesus told us to do. It's what we have to do. But it doesn't mean I have to like it."

The pastor said the Evans family was "rather disappointed" that sentencing wasn't carried out Thursday, but noted: "We've waited this far, we can wait longer. The judge is doing the right thing."

When James Evans was shot, the bullet entered near his right ear and exited through his opposite cheek. The Rev. Richtsteig rushed to his friend and found him on the floor and gave him last rights.

"I looked down at the floor and I saw blood and teeth and thought, 'My friend has just been killed,'" he said.

He said Evans has undergone two surgeries and is still waiting to have some teeth replaced, but is otherwise physically recovered.

"He's back at work. He's doing really good," the pastor said.

But there were several people in the church that day who are still attending counseling to deal with their psychological trauma. The Rev. Richtsteig admitted that he still has trouble sleeping and finds himself on edge or watching with a leery eye whenever someone walks into the church during the middle of service or whenever there is an unexpected loud noise in the building.

When asked whether he has tried reaching out to Jennings since his arrest, the Rev. Richtsteig said, "I reach out to him by praying for him."

Shortly after the shooting, a Liturgy of Reparation service was held at St. James, and both the interior and exterior of the church received a blessing.

Email: preavy@deseretnews.com, Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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