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

Evans said her daughter later told her the reason Jennings went to the church that day — with the "full intention of executing myself and my husband" — was because the daughter had planned on going to her parents' house after Mass to look at their vacation pictures.

The only reason her husband is alive, Evans said, is because he happened to turn his head just as Jennings pulled the trigger. The bullet went through the side of his face and mouth and not directly into his skull. The only reason she is alive, she said, is because Jennings "was confused that Jim was still standing. He was most likely wondering how he could have missed at such close range."

She added: "He shot Jim, and then he turned and aimed the gun right at my chest."

Evans also made several allegations about repeated abuse and manipulation by Jennings against her daughter and death threats he made against the family. A couple of times, Jennings — who stood looking straight ahead without emotion for most of her speech — turned and looked at Evans with a look of disbelief on his face while shaking his head.

The Rev. Erik J. Richtsteig, who was the celebrant at the altar on the day Evans was shot, recalled Jennings' actions after the hearing.

"As he's looking, he smirks at Jim and Tara. That tells me a world of what his opinion of the whole thing is. I get the feeling he feels it's a big game," he said.

Jim Evans and his family sat in the back row of the courtroom, while Jennings' family members sat in the front with a row separating the two sides. Afterward, most of Jennings' family left without making any comments to the media, but with obvious looks of anger about what was said in court.

Bouwhuis also addressed public comments he had either heard or read online expressing surprise that his client's family could show up and support him at court hearings.

"I'm not sure where that comes from," he said. "He's somebody's son. He's somebody's brother. To expect them to simply abandon him is simply unreasonable."

Jim Evans said he has physically healed from the shooting.

"You can tell my speech is a little different because I'm missing a lot of teeth. And my tongue is about twice the size it used to be because it was shredded. But I'm pretty much healed. By the end of summer I should have my teeth back again and be pretty normal. I'm back to work again, so, physically, I'm pretty good. Considering the alternative, considering what happened, I think I'm in excellent shape," he said with a smile.

Jim and Tara Evans recalled returning to the church two weeks after the shooting, once the pews had been refurbished. They both sat in the same spots where they had been on that Father's Day.

Evans got choked up as he expressed thanks to the members of his congregation who rushed to his aid and tried to apprehend Jennings.

"He's standing there with a gun. He's already proved he's not afraid to shoot. But at least a half-dozen men were rushing at him without fear for their lives. They were going to take him down so that he couldn't do anymore," he recalled.

"They rushed a guy with a loaded gun," Tara Evans added. "I mean, how brave is that? That is the ultimate in bravery."

West sentenced Jennings to four years to life for the attempted murder, and two sentences of six years to life for the aggravated robberies. He also pleaded guilty and mentally ill to an amended charge of attempted possession of a firearm by a restricted person, a class A misdemeanor. All sentences were ordered to be served concurrently.

Email: preavy@deseretnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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