- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 15, 2009

MARYVILLE, ILL. (AP) - The widow of a slain southwestern Illinois pastor said Saturday she and her daughters are praying for the man accused of gunning down her husband during a sermon last weekend.

During a news conference outside First Baptist Church in this St. Louis suburb, Cindy Winters said she and her two daughters are also praying for Terry Sedlacek’s family, according to a report in the Belleville News-Democrat.

“Terry, Jesus died on the cross for all of our sins, including the ones that you committed last Sunday,” Winters read from a prepared statement.

Sedlacek of Troy is charged with first-degree murder in the death of the Rev. Fred Winters. He’s also charged with two counts of aggravated battery that accuse him of injuring two churchgoers. He’s pleaded not guilty.

It remains unclear whether Sedlacek even knew Fred Winters. He’s accused of striding into the church on March 8 and firing four shots at the pastor, hitting him once in the heart.

After his gun jammed, police say he pulled out the knife and wrestled with two congregants who subdued him. All three suffered knife wounds.

Cindy Winters thanked people for their prayers, e-mails and cards.

“People we don’t even know have taken the time to express in such beautiful, meaningful ways their concern and compassion,” she said. “I have been so touched and have had a hard time finding words to express the depth of my gratitude.”

She also thanked the media for “capturing the heart and passion of my husband and this congregation of believers.”

Earlier Saturday, the 27-year-old Sedlacek appeared in court via video hookup. He was barefoot and wore a blue robe as Madison County Associate Judge James Hackett read the charges against him.

Attorney Ron Slemer, a part-time public defender, withdrew from the case Friday. Madison County Public Defender John Rekowski was appointed after Sedlacek’s parents submitted affidavits saying he can’t afford to hire his own lawyer.

Sedlacek is being held apart from the general population at the Madison County Jail, Hackett said.

A preliminary hearing is set for March 27.

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