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Robert Findlay Smith update: Alabama church shooter indicted on capital murder charges

Alabama church shooting accused charged with capital murder (Image via Google Maps)
Alabama church shooting accused charged with capital murder (Image via Google Maps)

Earlier this week, an Alabama grand jury indicted 70-year-old Robert Findlay Smith on charges of capital murder in connection with the deadly shooting which claimed the lives of three people at a church potluck meal, court records stated.

On June 16, police responded to an active shooting situation at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Vestavia Hills, a posh Birmingham neighborhood, and arrested Robert Findlay Smith. He was charged with killing 84-year-old Jane Pounds of Hoover, 75-year-old Sarah Yeager of Pelham and 84-year-old Walter "Bart" Rainey of Irondale.

On August 9, Smith was due in court for a preliminary hearing during which the prosecution's case would be laid out. Instead, the grand jury returned indictments against Smith on Thursday after hearing the case from Jefferson County prosecutors.

Speaking on the matter, district attorney Danny Carr said:

"Smith has been indicted for capital murder for killing two or more people. It is still very early in the prosecution of this case. We will be working closely with the families of those who lost their lives that terrible day ... as we progress towards holding Smith accountable."

The indictment was made public in court documents on Friday, July 29.

@WVTM13 What a shame. Maybe they can get him to shed some light on why someone would do something like this.

Robert Findlay Smith’s motive for the shooting remains unknown

Authorities said they have not yet identified a motive for the slayings of Yeager, Pelham and Rainey.

According to the Associated Press, Robert Findlay Smith began his shooting spree on the evening of June 16, as approximately 25 people, including Smith, were gathered for a "Boomers Potluck" supper at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church. According to church organizers, Smith had previously attended the event and services there.

@CBSNews I wish I never heard of another shooting ever.

He was apparently invited to join the other diners by a church member who approached him while he was sitting alone at dinner. However, Smith turned down the invitation and unleashed horror by firing his handgun at the others, killing three of them.

Yeager and Pelham passed away after being taken to the hospital, while Rainey was pronounced dead on the spot.

According to investigators, Robert Findlay Smith was later struck with a folding chair by a churchgoer who kept him detained until the police showed up. The attack left Smith with a deep bruise under his eye.

This is Robert Findlay Smith, charged with capital murder in the Alabama church shooting. https://t.co/Mnr4QuFpcw

Vestavia Hills Police Capt. Shane Ware described the intervening man's efforts as heroic and life-saving during a press conference the day following the incident.

Ware commented:

"The person that subdued the suspect, in my opinion, was a hero. [He was] extremely critical in saving lives."

While he awaits the announcement of his trial date, Robert Findlay Smith is being held in custody at the Jefferson County Jail without bond.

Attorneys Emory Anthony and Moses Stone are advocating on behalf of Smith.

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Edited by Upasya Bhowal
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