NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The man accused of killing a woman, and injuring six others after a Sunday church service in 2017 is set to go on trial Monday.
Members of Burnette Chapel gathered at church Sunday evening to pray ahead of the trial starting Monday morning. They prayed for the attorneys, for the witnesses who are going to be testifying, and the defendant– 26-year-old Emanuel Samson, charged with 43 counts including first-degree murder.
“Why?” asked Member Joe Langford, “Why? Why did you come in here and do that? That’s what I want to know. Why?
It’s the question everyone at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ wants answers to this week.
“I would like to know why but I can’t ask him… Think they’ll probably be trying to find that out during the trial maybe, I don’t know,” said Minister Joey Spann.
Spann was one of six people shot that Sunday morning when authorities say Samson open fired on the church.
“I got shot in the chest when he came in the door,” Spann said, “My wife was shot in the leg, and a couple other members were shot a couple times in the leg, another one in the arm, then he was tackled and brought down in there, and then the gun went off and he shot himself in the stomach.”
A prayer garden now lies beside the church where the victim 38-year-old Melanie Crow Smith died.
“She was gonna go out to her car and get a cough drop, so she went on out to her car and then we heard the shots ring out,” Spann recalled.
More than a year and a half later, Spann and the other survivors will now have to testify in court, sitting directly across from the accused gunman.
“A little bit of a dread,” Spann said, “We have some members who it’s bringing back feelings and things, it’s not something we’re looking forward to, it’s something we’re just gonna do.”
Back in 2017, a Metro Police detective testified to a note in Samson’s SUV referencing the 2015 shooting at a black church in South Carolina. However, the detective also said Samson claimed he didn’t give much thought to race or religion and that he heard voices and had visions.
A psychiatrist has diagnosed Samson with schizoaffective disorder bipolar type as well as PTSD after an abusive childhood.
“He and some friends started coming here about four or five years before,” Spann said, “And when they quit coming it was because they had moved away…. and he was baptized here, so it was odd.”
The prosecution is not seeking the death penalty, but they are hoping for life without parole. The trial will begin Monday morning and News 2 will be in the courtroom to keep you updated on air and online.