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Prison ordered for man who shot father-in-law in church

'You shook the foundation of our entire community,' judge says

Published: Thursday, Feb. 20 2014 5:05 p.m. MST

Charles Richard Jennings Jr. is led into the courtroom for his sentencing at 2nd District Court in Ogden Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014. Jennings pleaded guilty of attempted murder for shooting his father-in-law while he and his wife attended a Catholic Mass in Ogden last June.

Brian Nicholson

OGDEN — A man convicted of shooting his father-in-law on Father's Day as he knelt to pray in church was sentenced directly to prison Thursday rather than receiving treatment first at the Utah State Hospital.

"This was a horrendous act. You shook the foundation of our entire community," 2nd District Judge W. Brent West told Charles "Ricky" Jennings, 35, just before handing down the punishment.

Jennings shot Jim Evans, 66, at the St. James the Just Catholic Church, 495 N. Harrison Blvd., on June 16. He pleaded guilty and mentally ill in November to attempted murder and two counts of aggravated burglary, first-degree felonies.

West ordered him to serve six years to life in prison.

Deputy Weber County attorney Dean Saunders believes there's a good chance Jennings will never get out.

"Based on what he did, we think there's a good reason for the board of pardons to keep him the rest of his life. This was such a horrific crime and had such an impact on so many people," he said.

Jennings' original sentencing was postponed last month so the judge could better determine whether he should be first sent to the Utah State Hospital for treatment. West noted Thursday that both the hospital and the Department of Corrections recommended Jennings go directly to prison. Prison officials said his mental illness could be treated there. But they also noted that he has made comments since his incarceration about hurting jail staff.

"I'm left with the impression you are a danger," West said.

Evans and his wife, Tara Evans, were present in the courtroom Thursday. They each urged the judge to give him the maximum sentence. After the hearing, each expressed relief that justice had been served.

"I pray for his soul. But I hope he's kept in jail for as long as he's (a danger) to society, and I think that will be his whole life," Jim Evans said.

"I really believe with all my heart he's not getting out," added Tara Evans. "There's hope for everybody, right? But do I think it's really likely (he'll rehabilitate)? Not really. Because he's always chosen evil, he will continue to choose evil."

Jennings did not address the judge Thursday. But his defense attorney said he wanted the public to know that his client did not plead guilty but mentally ill as a way to avoid taking responsibility or to get a lighter sentence. Michael Bouwhuis said four doctors diagnosed his client as having a mental illness.

Even after being drug-free since his arrest, Jennings continued to hear voices and suffered from paranoia, schizophrenia and showed other signs of psychotic disorder, according to Bouwhuis. He said his client described feeling like he was under hypnosis at times and claimed that voices told him to shoot his father-in-law.

The judge acknowledged Jennings' mental illness and previous head injuries but blamed him for continually using drugs like methamphetamine to deal with his illness.

"I don't think the mental health issues rise to the level of any excuse or mitigation," he said.

"I think he's mentally ill, but I don't think this is due to mental illness," said Tara Evans. "I think he chose evil himself."

During the sentencing, she delivered a lengthy prepared statement. She talked about how her son-in-law was apparently thinking clearly enough that day to make sure her grandson was dropped off at a safe place first, "while he went to murder Grandpa and Grandma."

Evans believes Jennings' actions were driven by "pure anger and hatred" and not mental illness. She and her husband had tried to convince their daughter to leave him because of his abuse toward her, and that drove a wedge between Jennings and their family.

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