Man Sentenced to Life in Prison for Fatally Shooting 3 at Alabama Church Potluck

A man who fatally shot three people at a church potluck in Alabama last year has been sentenced to life in prison without parole.

In June 2022, Robert Findlay Smith fatally shot congregants Walter “Bart” Rainey (84), Sarah Yeager (75) and Jane Pounds (84) during a potluck at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Vestavia Hills.

Smith was armed with a handgun but was disarmed by a church member who hit him with a chair and pulled the gun away.

Smith was sentenced on Tuesday, The Christian Post reports. 

According to the Associated Press, Smith’s defense attorney, Emory Anthony, apologized on the gunman’s behalf.

“We’re so thankful to the families of each one of those victims because they agreed to allow him to plead to life. He could have been facing the death penalty. So, they did not just talk about being Christians, they acted as Christians. I know it’s hurtful to each one of the family members, but we say thanks to each one of them,” Anthony reported.

District Attorney Danny Carr confirmed that the victim’s families refused to consider the death penalty for Smith.

“This type of senseless murder of three innocent people is certainly a case our office would typically try in front of a jury and seek the death penalty, however, that was not the wish of the three families in this case,” Carr explained.

“After much discussion, thought and prayer, the families were unanimous that they would prefer a plea of guilty to capital murder and a life without parole sentence.”

In a joint statement, the Rev. Katherine Harper, the Rev. Becky Bridges, the Rev. John B. Burruss and the clergy of St. Stephen’s Episcopal said, “our community can invest energy on how to model God’s unconditional love and be a place of healing and resurrection” now that the sentence has been handed down.

“We offer prayers for all the lives who have been — and continue to be — altered by this tragedy, especially those who were in the Parish Hall on June 16,” they added. “As difficult as it is, we pray that God’s redeeming love may reach Mr. Smith as he lives with the consequences of his actions for the rest of his life.”

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Anurakpong

Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for Christian Headlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.