LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) — The man accused of killing his wife and then shooting two church pastors had been sentenced to probation for killing a previous wife years earlier, according to court records.

Jeremiah Fogle, 57, was charged with murder and attempted murder after Sunday’s shootings. During a hearing Monday, he was ordered held without bond and assigned a public defender. He appeared stoic and did not speak at the hearing, where he appeared via video conference.

Authorities said he killed his wife, Theresa, and then wounded a pastor and associate pastor. The congregation had been bowing their heads in prayer when Fogle burst inside. Church members were able to tackle him, take away the gun and hold him until deputies arrived.

Years before that, Fogle had pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the death of his wife, Diane. He was sentenced in 1987 to 10 years’ probation.

An affidavit from that killing states Fogle answered the door holding a rifle and showed an Avon Park police officer the body of his wife, Diane. His 10-year-old stepson told investigators he heard Fogle call an ambulance and say he shot someone and wanted to kill himself.

Prosecutors reduced the charge from first-degree murder, saying that Fogle had handled the rifle in a “negligent, careless and reckless manner,” and they recommended probation instead of a prison sentence, according to court documents. The documents do not explain why the charge was reduced or why prosecutors recommended probation.

Diane Fogle’s daughter, 31-year-old Shekema Clark of Tampa, said Monday the couple had been married only about five months when her mother was shot on the bedroom floor.

Clark, who was 6 at the time, said that her stepfather was an argumentative husband, and that her mother refrained from arguing back.

Clark said she didn’t know Fogle had not served prison time until she heard of Sunday’s shootings.

“If you already killed one person and got away with it, why would you do it again? It’s disturbing,” she said.

Authorities and relatives said the Fogles had been members of the Greater Faith Christian Center Church before starting their own ministry out of their home.

Derrick Foster, a teacher at Greater Faith, told The Associated Press he heard gunfire and screams before he and another man tackled Fogle.

“The first thing in my mind was, ‘I have to take this gun away,'” said Foster, who was among the 20 or so people at the Sunday service at Greater Faith Christian Center Church.

Foster saw the man near the pulpit, turning around with the gun in his hand. He said it took three or four minutes of struggling before he finally wrested the weapon away.

“What’s amazing is, he was laughing. Not audibly, but he had this sinister look on his face. He looked like he was happy for doing it,” Foster said Monday.

“I don’t think I’m a hero, but at that time it was fight or flight,” he said.

The gunman had six rounds in his pocket. “He was prepared to shoot even more,” Sheriff Grady Judd said.

Pastor William Boss and associate pastor Carl Stewart were shot from behind, authorities said. Boss was shot in the head, and Stewart was shot three times in the back and ear. They remained hospitalized Monday.

Church member Anthony Hudson visited the men at the hospital Monday and said both were in good spirits.

“Minister Stewart, I got to shake his hand and I saw him with his eyes open and lit up. That made me feel real good to know he was doing well,” Hudson said.

No one else at the church was hurt.

Eva Henderson was talking on the phone in her driveway when she heard gunshots across the street and watched panicked parishioners run out of the church. Boss came around from the back before collapsing out front. Church members rushed to his aid, she said.

A church member advised deputies to check on Fogle’s wife, who lived with him a block away in a neighborhood of mobile homes, humble houses and industrial shops. Investigators and relatives say 56-year-old Theresa Fogle was found slain inside. They were married at Greater Faith in 2002.

“We don’t know exactly why he went into this mad rage,” Judd said.

Theresa Fogle’s sister Maria Beauford said she had never known Jeremiah Fogle to be violent toward her sister. He had been sick over the past year and had back surgery, and Theresa Fogle nursed him back to health, Beauford said.

Beauford said Monday that her family new nothing about Jeremiah Fogle’s past marriages or criminal record, and that her sister probably didn’t know, either.

Beauford said her sister’s marriage also had been a shock because she married Fogle soon after her previous husband died of cancer. Their families had known each other through church in the 1970s and 1980s, but Beauford didn’t know that her sister and Fogle had reconnected until they announced their marriage.

“She did not know everything, and if she did, she didn’t tell anyone about it,” Beauford said. “He always gave us the impression that he was jovial, happy, glad to see us. That’s why we’re still in shock.”

Click here to read “Church Shooting 911 Call: ‘Please Help Us'”

Click here to read “Fla. Man Accused of Killing Wife, Wounding 2 Pastors”
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Associated Press writers Mike Schneider, Jennifer Kay and Christine Armario contributed to this report.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

 

Mitch Stacy

Associated Press