For I Have Sinned

True Stories of Clergy Who Kill

John Glatt

St. Martin's True Crime

For I Have Sinned
ONE
The Sacrificial Lamb
He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death.
--Exodus 21:12
 
 
 
The murder plot was as elaborate and gruesome as a classic Alfred Hitchcock film. Yet with all the bizarre twists and turns of a film noir, the case of Pastor John David Terry was far darker than anything a horror writer could have dreamed up.
Desperate to start a new life, the Reverend John David Terry murdered his handyman, cutting off the victim's head--and, to avoid proper identification, his tattooed arm--in the hope of having the body mistaken for his own. For good measure he set his church on fire with the mutilated corpse inside.
The Nashville minister decided to walk out of his life in late February 1987, after being turned down for a long-awaited promotion to bishop. His late father, Bishop John C. Terry, had once held the same position, so the younger Reverend Terry, who was known as David, had taken it for granted that he would get the job. Apart from seeking the prestigeof being a Pentecostal bishop, he was eager for the new job's $75,000 salary, a fortune compared to the meager $35,000 he was making as pastor of the Emmanuel Church of Christ Oneness Pentecostal.
When the reigning bishop, Rob Roy Banks, decided the ambitious young pastor was not worthy of following him, the Reverend Terry decided to get even by embezzling $50,000 realized from the sale of a parsonage. And when he thought he might be caught and shamed in front of his congregation he decided to fake his own death and start a new life away from the church--and his devoted wife and children.
"I reached a point in my ministry where I felt like a complete failure," Terry would later say in a futile attempt to explain and justify his bizarre plan. "The church wasn't growing and I thought it was my fault."
The Reverend John David Terry was just forty-three years old but he looked at least ten years older. His thick, metal-framed spectacles weighed heavily down on his wide nose, giving him a haunted look. And in the months prior to his crime the greedy clergyman had ballooned up to 220 pounds, a gain of at least thirty pounds, and was very self-conscious about the weight gain. In an attempt to look younger, the vain minister wore a thick black toupee to conceal his baldness.
Following in his tyrannical father's footsteps, the introspective young David Terry had joined the Pentecostal church after failing to get a college degree. At his 1962 graduation from Nashville's East High School, his year book motto had eerily predicted,"Life is short; death is at hand. I'll enjoy it while I can."
Growing up, Reverend Terry lived in fear of his father, who constantly criticized him, saying he would never amount to anything. So the wounded, timid youth turned to his mother, Pauline, to confide his growing insecurities. When his first marriage ended in divorce, his choice for a second wife, Brenda, had to be approved by his mother prior to the marriage.
The Southern Pentecostal church offered a ready-made career and safe haven to the insecure young man, who fed off the congregation's respect to bolster his self-confidence. For fifteen years he served the eighty-member congregation faithfully and was popular among parishioners for his hard work. But he was living a lie, projecting a self-confidence he didn't feel.
"He was the beloved David," said Reverend Terry's church colleague and friend, Reverend Ronnie Banks, who would eventually take over from his father as bishop. "Brother David had real charisma and the people would melt in his hands. But the truth was that he had extremely low self-esteem and no confidence in himself."
The Reverend David Terry compensated for his perceived inadequacies by deliberately trying to impress his blue-collar flock. Putting enormous stock in keeping up appearances, he always made sure his yard was spotless and his four young children were always clean and well-dressed. He liked to reward their good grades with little cash presents, believing their success at school directly reflected on him. His wife Brenda was a meek butfaithful homemaker who would never dare to question him.
The behavior Reverend Terry employed to impress his congregation led his colleagues and neighbors to regard him as eccentric. He always refused to wear shorts during the steaming hot Nashville summers, insisting on wearing long pants even to cut his lawn.
As his strict religious beliefs disavowed any kind of sport, the Reverend Terry would not attend games to watch his eldest son, John David, Jr., who was a star high school football player.
Strangely, he did not forbid the boy to play, again thinking his son's success reflected on him. Even more embarrassing for the young boy was the minister's refusal to attend the school's father/son football banquet.
The seemingly pious minister gave far more of himself to his congregation than he did to his own family. He was always on hand to lead the singing at weddings, hold expectant fathers' hands in hospital hallways and be supportive at funerals.
When his mother died in the mid-1980s, Reverend Terry lost his emotional anchor and began to drift badly. He felt he couldn't talk to his wife about the increasing chasm between his deep feelings of worthlessness and what was expected from him as a church leader.
Deeply depressed after his mother's death, Reverend Terry turned to his friend Reverend Banks for advice when they traveled to Memphis together to visit a Bible college.
"He shared his problems with me," said Banks, who is now a bishop. "He just didn't have anyoneto talk to. I didn't understand what was happening to him at the time. In hindsight I see that everything stemmed from when my dad did not step down as Bishop in favor of David. Even then David was plotting and scheming to be free."
Secretly ambitious, the pastor had expensive tastes and found it a constant struggle to survive on his salary. To supplement his income he dabbled in selling real estate and worked part-time as a butcher, which was his trade prior to taking up his ministry.
His downward spiral truly began when he secretly sold the church parsonage. His fear of being caught--not shame over the deed itself--gave birth to desire.
One day in a magazine shop near his east Nashville home, he happened to pick up the mercenary-warriors magazine, Soldier of Fortune, and started thumbing through it. Suddenly he noticed an ad explaining how to disappear and find a new identity.
"It just jumped out of that page," he would later explain. "How to get lost ... how to disappear."
The preacher became obsessed by the idea of staging his own disappearance and adopting a new identity--a new persona. He could think of nothing else, with the idea becoming more and more seductive. He started spending days in the library going through old newspapers to research possible candidates for his new identity.
Initially Reverend Terry had planned to become Ronnie Alderson, a childhood friend who had drowned at the age of six. But he abandoned the plan when he ran into difficulties obtaining the personaldetails needed to secure a birth certificate.
Then during a visit to Mount Olivet Cemetery he noticed the tombstone of a young boy named Jerry Milsom, who had drowned at age seven on July 23, 1951. Terry was struck by the fact that the dead boy had been born on July 8, 1944--just three days before Terry's birth.
Going back to the library the minister found a newspaper account of Milsom's tragic drowning, which had also claimed the life of his father, who had tried to save him. The pastor carefully photocopied the story and obituary and used the dead boy's personal details to get copies of his birth certificate, which he used to obtain a Social Security number and a driver's license. It occurred to him that there was something almost Christ-like about his resurrecting this tragic young child.
By the beginning of March 1987, the Reverend Terry had a new identity. Now he needed a body to stand in for his own. He could not merely disappear. No, he must appear to be dead, and he needed a victim.
 
James Chester Matheny, Jr., was drifting through life on a wave of alcohol. With limited intelligence, the thirty-two-year-old tousle-haired, mustached young man had landed in hospital rehab as an alcoholic after his wife Theresa had left him, taking their young son, William, with her, because of James' heavy drinking.
Grossly overweight at 260 pounds, Matheny, who had been in and out of jail for everything from pimping to street robbery, used to attend the Emmanuel Church and was well-known to ReverendTerry. One day Theresa was visiting him in General Hospital during his five-month detox stay when Matheny asked her to call Reverend Terry to invite him to come and pray for him. When Theresa telephoned the preacher he readily agreed.
"He told me, 'Sister Theresa, you're not going to believe this, but I was just thinking about Brother Jim,'" she would later recall. "I thought, wow, the Lord is really working in our lives."
Pastor Terry, too, felt as if his own prayers had been answered.
James Matheny was the perfect victim for the minister's murder plan. Heavy, like Reverend Terry, the tattooed loner had few friends in Nashville who cared--or would even notice--if he lived or died.
In the first of many hospital visits the pastor acted like Matheny's long-lost friend, pledging to help him get his life together after his discharge. He gave Matheny three hundred dollars to pay six weeks' rent in the nearby Nashville Union Rescue Mission and agreed to hire him as his church sexton and handyman at ten dollars an hour--more than twice the going rate for the job.
"The minister became a big brother to him and baptized him into the church," said Nashville Assistant District Attorney John Zimmermann. "He gave him the first meaningful job in his life and led him around like a puppy dog for three months. It's obvious that extraordinary steps were being taken to endear this guy to the minister. It was like leading a lamb to the slaughter."
It was a busy time for Reverend David Terry as he began putting all the pieces of the puzzle inplace for what he envisioned would be a heroic martyr's death.
Sometime in March, Reverend Terry persuaded the buyers of the parsonage to pay him $50,700 directly for the mortgage-free house. He used this money to put his murder plan into high gear.
On April 24, 1987, he paid $4,950 for a used Suzuki Cavalcade in the name of Jerry Milsom, using a check designated for a church missionary program. He was served by Suzuki district sales manager Steve Williams, who thought it strange that the bulky man with the bad toupee refused to give him a telephone contact number.
"I asked him for a business number, and he said, 'That's about to change,'" Williams would later recall.
Three weeks later the minister purchased a $100,000 life-insurance policy, naming his three sons, John David, Jr., 22, Joel, 21, and Jason, 18, as the prime beneficiaries.
Insurance agent Wade Punch, who had dealt with Reverend Terry for many years, said the pastor explained his need for extra coverage, saying, "I'm getting on and I need to start thinking about my family."
 
It was a hot, humid morning on Monday, June 15, when the Reverend David Terry left his 1713 Lawncrest Drive home to "die" and start a new life as Jerry Milsom. He'd hardly slept that night after saying goodnight to his sons and kissing his wife for what he thought would be the final time.
He arose at sunrise to make his final preparations, leaving $10,400 of the parsonage money incrisp one-hundred-dollar bills in a dresser drawer for his wife, and placing a single hundred-dollar bill in each of his three sons' billfolds. Then he left a letter to his wife with instructions on how she should pay the monthly bills with a special note on car maintenance.
He also packed his butcher's knives in a canvas mail bag along with a new set of clothes and the birth certificate, Social Security card and driver's license he had obtained in the name of Jerry Milsom.
At about 8:30 a.m. his eldest son saw him leaving and asked him where he was going. The Reverend Terry smiled and replied that he was meeting his handyman James Matheny to go fishing. Then, with the most cursory of good-byes, he exited his family's life.
A few miles away in a Madison boarding house, an excited James Matheny prepared for his long-awaited fishing trip with his new friend and benefactor. Since Reverend Terry had baptized him back into the church, Matheny felt renewed and proud of finally having a real job. Now he hoped and prayed for a reconciliation with his family.
While he waited impatiently for the pastor to arrive he called his ex-wife Theresa to tell her about the trip. At 9 a.m. the Reverend David Terry pulled up outside in his brand new light-blue Hyundai car and collected Matheny for the short drive to Nashville.
In the car Pastor Terry asked Matheny to help him move church furniture before they went to the lake, saying it would only take a few minutes. Thefat preacher seemed jollier than usual, making small talk about the weather during the drive to his Emmanuel Church.
When they arrived Terry asked the handyman if he could help him bring down some furniture from the sanctuary. Unknown to Matheny, Reverend Terry had carefully prepared for this visit the night before, hiding a gun, an ax and a home-made fuse in the church attic.
Reverend Terry followed Matheny up the thin, winding stairs, past the baptistery, where the minister had baptized him a few weeks earlier, and into a small attic. Gritting his teeth, Reverend Terry may have said a silent prayer as he watched his victim bound up the stairs, all innocence and enthusiasm.
As the unsuspecting handyman bent down to pick up the furniture, the pastor reached for the hidden 38 caliber pistol and fired point-blank into the back of Matheny's head. Matheny instantly fell to the ground dead and the preacher was ready for the next part of his macabre plan.
Placing Matheny's body on a green carpet, he stripped him down to his underpants, placing a belt around his waist, the buckle of which bore a large letter "T"--an easily recognizable Father's Day present from his wife Brenda the previous year. Then he rubbed Matheny's lifeless hands over two beer bottles which he planned to leave in his own car, in an attempt to incriminate Matheny in "his" own murder.
Reaching for the canvas mail bag, the Reverend Terry pulled out his butcher's knives and began to remove Matheny's head. The trained butchersawed in a criss-cross motion, cleanly severing Matheny's head from his body.
He no doubt complimented himself on the neat job he had done, taking professional pride in his work, as he picked the head up by the hair and put it in the bag. Then he began cutting off the right arm just below the elbow to eradicate a large tattoo on the forearm.
After completing his bloody work the Reverend David Terry was sweating profusely and stopped to catch his breath. Regaining his composure he rolled Matheny's torso up into the large green carpet, which had a religious design, and picked up the heavy canvas bag containing the head and arm. He felt strangely elated as he walked out of his church and carefully locked the door behind him.
 
Everything was going according to plan when the Reverend Terry found the Suzuki bike he'd hidden in some bushes near the church and drove east to Old Hickory Lake. He slowly drove around it but was unable to find a suitable spot to dump the body parts where he could be sure they wouldn't be found. Then the pastor remembered an isolated spot he'd visited while making meat deliveries the previous year and turned back toward Nashville.
Although Lake Barkley was another fifty miles west of Nashville on Route 79, it seemed a more suitable spot to get rid of Matheny's head and arm. Once there Terry rented a small boat at the Bumpus Mill Marina and rowed out to the middle of the lake. When he was fully satisfied no one was looking he dropped the weighty canvas bag with its grisly contents over the side and into the water,breathing a sigh of relief as it slowly dropped to the bottom of the deep lake. He then returned to the shore.
It was almost dark when the Reverend Terry parked the Suzuki behind his church and sneaked inside. He walked slowly up the aisle, past the altar to the stairs, going up to the attic where he had left Matheny's headless body. Unrolling the carpet he turned over the body and noticed another tattoo, the size of a compact disc, across the corpse's back. Taking his fish-scaling knife the pastor sliced off the tattoo, threw the blood-soaked skin in a paper towel and flushed it down the toilet.
Rolling up the torso in the green carpet once more, he covered it with some lumber and placed a large ax by the side of the body. Now he was ready for the final and most dramatic part of his plan--his own martyr's death.
After locating two cans of gasoline he had previously stored in the attic, he made the sign of the cross and said a silent prayer as he began pouring it over the body. Then he poured gasoline all over the attic and down to the baptistery before dousing the folding stairs that led to the first floor. Walking up and down his church aisles, he drenched the entire church in gasoline, finishing by the altar where he had delivered so many sermons over the years.
Going back up to the attic, the Reverend Terry took the fuse he'd made from a candle and a piece of cloth, set it by the body and struck a match--but it refused to ignite. Again and again the home-made fuse failed to catch and the preacher cursed as he ran out of matches. Frustrated in his attemptsto burn down his church, Pastor Terry had no alternative but to go out to a nearby convenience store and buy a lighter.
A few minutes later he sneaked back into the church and set the gasoline alight on his first try. He watched in triumph as the flames engulfed the carpet with James Matheny's body wrapped inside it, then, as the fire quickly spread through the rest of the church, he ran down the stairs and out of the front door.
It was midnight as Pastor David Terry--now truly Jerry Milsom--rode off into the night on his motorcycle as the flames from his Emmanuel Church of Christ Oneness Pentecostal shot out into the pitch-black sky.
 
The burning church was soon spotted by shocked neighbors who immediately called the fire department. When the firefighters arrived the two-story brick church building was completely engulfed in flames. It took them two hours to get it under control.
When they eventually searched the gutted House of God in the early hours they were horrified to find in the burned out attic what they presumed to be the minister's charred body minus his head and an arm.
Homicide detectives were soon on the scene and Brenda Terry was telephoned with the news her husband may have died in the fire in his church. The poor woman arrived in tears with her sons and was inconsolable as she wept for her husband.
As morning broke she was joined by a dozen distraught congregation members who held aprayer vigil for their pastor outside his still-smoldering church. At one point Matheny's ex-wife Theresa arrived and burst into hysterics when she was told that her former husband may have killed the pastor. Because of their planned fishing trip, he was the logical suspect.
The Reverend Ronnie Banks was awakened by one of his deacons, who had seen a report of the church fire on the morning news. "I could not believe it," recalled the Bishop. "My wife and I got dressed and left immediately to go to the church and when we got there everybody was crying for Brother David. We all thought that somebody had killed him and then burned his body."
As homicide detectives, who already had reports of a motorcycle seen leaving the church shortly before the fire, launched a murder investigation, the yet-unidentified body was transported to the medical examiner's office for forensic tests.
A few hours later the body was positively identified by x-ray as James Matheny's and a nationwide search was launched for the missing preacher, who was now also suspected of being a victim in a bizarre double homicide.
"It looks to me as if it must have been a cult thing," said a member of Matheny's family as he visited the church. "I mean, there are a lot of ways to simply kill someone without finding him without a head in a burning church."
 
After leaving the burning church Reverend David Terry assumed his new identity of James Milsom and checked into a small motel on the edge of Nashville. Managing to grab a few hours' sleep, theminister awoke Tuesday morning and began to change his physical appearance. First he shaved his head completely and removed his eyebrows. He left his bushy mustache, feeling it made him look like a tough guy.
He then changed into a new set of clothes and placed his toupee and old clothes in a bag. After leaving the motel he drove two hundred miles to Memphis, checking into a double room at the Admiral Benbow Inn as J. Milsom and paying in cash.
That night he went out for a celebratory meal before going to see a Memphis Chicks baseball game. Although the Reverend David Terry detested sporting events, his alter ego Jim Milsom loved them.
"It was like a wild animal let out of a cage," explained the Reverend Ronnie Banks. "e just wanted to be free without his family."
On Wednesday, June 17th, the Reverend David Terry switched on the television news hoping to hear the report of his own murder. To his astonishment and horror he found that he was now a wanted man for the murder of James Matheny. He instantly felt defeated, knowing his months of careful planning had failed.
Without any hesitation the murderous preacher reached for the phone and called Nashville lawyer Seth Norman, who had handled his divorce from his first wife many years earlier. He calmly explained that he was the minister the police were hunting and asked Norman to negotiate his safe surrender.
 
 
Metro Homicide Detective Robert Moore doubted from the beginning that the headless corpse in the church attic belonged to Pastor John David Terry. Why, he wondered, were there no signs of forced entry, and why had valuable electronic equipment in the sanctuary been left untouched? There was also the intriguing question of why the remains were clothed only in undershorts and a belt. It was also apparent that the ax, found conveniently lying by the body, had not been used, as the amputations were too clean.
"They were straight and precise," said Detective Moore. "Just as if you were filleting meat."
It was also noted that if firefighters had arrived at the church five or six minutes later the body would have been burned beyond recognition and Reverend Terry may well have gotten away with his murder being blamed on the hapless handyman.
"If that body had been destroyed he would have walked away," said Bishop Ronnie Banks.
On Wednesday afternoon, before giving himself up, Reverend Terry drove west to the banks of the Mississippi, where he discarded the murder weapon. He then rode back to Nashville, to his undetermined fate.
During the three-hour journey he fell off his bike after swerving to avoid a collision, and suffered heavy bruising to his legs and arms. Arriving in Nashville he went straight to the Fairgrounds Self Service Storage, where he deposited two motorcycle helmets, his black toupee, and the driver's license issued to Jerry Milsom but bearing his picture.
He then limped into Dr. Edward King's office nearby for treatment for his injuries, telling the astonished physician that a drunken employee had beaten him in church with a wooden two-by-four. When pressed for more details, Terry replied, "You don't really want to get into that, do you?"
After leaving Dr. King's office the pastor rode downtown to attorney Seth Norman's office on Third Avenue North for a meeting with Nashville's Assistant Police Chief Sherman Nickens.
Chief Nickens, who had described the Matheny slaying as "one of the most brutal crimes I've ever witnessed," hardly recognized the minister with his newly shaven head. After greeting the detective with a handshake the Reverend Terry refused, on the advice of his lawyer, to discuss the case and answer questions. With no grounds to hold him, Chief Nickens left to obtain an arrest warrant.
That night Reverend Terry went home for the first time in three days to his wife and children, who were overjoyed that he had not died in the fire as first feared. When the shaven-headed pastor walked in the house he went straight to his room, refusing to discuss his disappearance.
"We were just so glad he was home that we didn't want to go into any questions," said Brenda Terry. "He told me he could not go into details, and I know my husband. We did not pressure him."
The following day a grand jury indicted Pastor Terry for the first-degree murder/arson and the minister peacefully gave himself up at the Criminal Justice Center. Later, to the astonishment of hiswife, detectives found $10,400 in cash and the life-insurance policy in his bedroom.
Questioned about her husband's strange behavior and his apparent disillusionment with his ministry, she replied, "I know he's always loved the ministry. Oftentimes he would get discouraged and then encouraged again."
. Now behind bars without bail the always-introspective pastor withdrew further into himself, refusing to discuss the murder or reveal what he had done with his handyman's missing head and arm.
 
The Sunday after the murder Reverend David Terry's shocked congregation gathered for prayer at the First Church of the Nazarene, only yards away from their own gutted church building. Having seen their respected minister arrested for one of the most horrendous murders in living memory, coupled with the loss of their church, some parishioners were convinced that the devil was at work.
Addressing the bewildered flock, Pentecostal minister Rob Roy Banks, Bishop Ronnie Banks' father, said he would assume Reverend Terry's duties until the "innocent" pastor's return to the pulpit.
"We are shocked almost beyond belief," the Reverend Banks told the congregation. "Until Brother Terry is proven guilty we shall continue to believe he is innocent.
"I know nothing but good that can or could be said of Brother Terry. He has been a faithful and dedicated man of God, a zealous worker in the congregation and a dedicated family man."
Finishing his sermon Reverend Banks quoted John 8:32: "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
 
For the next 15 months the Reverend David Terry remained behind bars waiting for his murder and arson trial, refusing to cast any more light on the murder or reveal the whereabouts of James Matheny's head and arm.
He spent the long months reading and changing his appearance yet again by growing a full beard, though he kept his head shaved. With the tough, menacing look of a convict there was little left to show he was an ordained minister.
Every week without fail he received a visit from his ever-loyal wife Brenda, who had forgiven him and felt closer to him than she ever had before. But his sons were less forgiving as they struggled to come to terms with the dreadful contradictions in their father's life.
Finally on September 5, 1988--three days before his trial--Reverend Terry relented and told police where he had disposed of the missing head and arm. He admitted throwing them into Lake Barkley and drew detectives a map of where he dumped them. But despite a thorough search of the lake by police divers the body parts have never been found.
When the Reverend Terry walked into court for the first day of his trial he was sporting yet another new look. Taking the advice of his lawyers, he had shaved off his full beard and grown back what little was left of his dark hair, which ringed the backof his head. He looked more like an accountant than an ax murderer.
"You may never hear of a more cold-blooded, brutal murder than this one," said Assistant District Attorney John Zimmermann, who was calling for the death penalty. "If the fire department had been five or six minutes later this man would have been a martyr, a holy martyr. His church would have been destroyed, leaving a skeleton without a head, with an ax blade in the ashes, without an arm, and with a belt buckle bearing the letter 'T' on it.
"Why was it all done? Because he stole the money from the church--selfish greed. But James Matheny paid the ultimate price."
Explaining how the preacher had taken a perverse delight in cutting up his handyman's body, Zimmermann described the great care Reverend Terry had taken in removing the head and arm before slicing off the back tattoo.
"And I don't mean [he was] chopped with an ax," said Zimmermann. "I mean neatly cut like a chicken ... just like a meat cutter would do. Because, you see, Reverend Terry was not just a pastor, he was also a butcher."
Bishop Ronnie Banks also testified against his old friend.
"I have no sympathy for David," said the Bishop. "I didn't know that anybody was capable of doing what he did, especially a religious leader. This was far beyond anybody's expectations."
When the jury went out to deliberate the Reverend Terry rose to his feet smiling at a cadre ofstill-supportive friends across the courtroom and telling his tearful wife, "I love you."
It took the jury just four hours to find the Reverend John David Terry guilty of murdering James Matheny and burning down his church. In the penalty phase, to decide if he would die in the electric chair, Reverend Terry took the stand for the first time and gave his version of the bloody killing.
Often breaking down in tears, the seemingly contrite and remorseful minister told the jury how he had been driven to the edge of suicide by "screaming voices" in his head.
"I thought it was John David Terry I was killing," sobbed the pastor. "All I could see was John David Terry. He was standing there looking out the window and I went over and shot him."
Asked why he had cut off the head, the minister said, "It was John David Terry's face, but it was not my body."
Reverend Terry then said he noticed a tattoo on Matheny's right forearm and amputated it. Denying that he had spent months carefully planning the murder scheme to conceal the money he had stolen from the church, Reverend Terry said he had first attempted suicide in the spring of 1987 by placing a gun to his head.
"I was unable to pull the trigger," he sobbed. "I just reached a point in my life that I didn't want to live. I don't know if it was burn-out or middle-aged crazies, as they call it. I just couldn't cope with life. I wanted to die. I felt like a complete failure. I had gained so much weight. I had such a low concept of myself."
The disgraced minister then begged the jury totake pity on him and not send him to the electric chair, pleading, "I want to have some type of life, even if it has to be in prison."
On September 25, 1988, the Reverend John David Terry was sent to Death Row after being sentenced to pay the ultimate penalty for the first-degree murder of James Matheny. After spending a year on Death Row his appointment with the electric chair was overturned on appeal but the murder conviction was upheld, making the minister eligible for parole in 2010.
The one person he can be sure will be waiting for him, if he ever gets out of jail, will be his wife Brenda, who said she is more in love with him than ever. "All I know is that we are much closer than we ever were," she explained. "This has made me aware that everything that I was taught as a child was right. That is, that faith in God still works. It is the only way to get you through something like this."
On December 18, 1991, what was left of Emmanuel Church of Christ Oneness burned to the ground when a bonfire set by homeless people trying to keep warm went out of control.
Copyright © 1998 by John Glatt.