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Alabama Man Indicted In Church Potluck Shooting That Killed Three Elderly Parishioners

Robert Findlay Smith stands accused of the murders of Walter “Bart” Rainey, Sarah Yeager and Jane Pounds, the three elderly churchgoers killed during a potluck at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Vestavia Hills, Alabama.

By Dorian Geiger
Robert Findlay Smith Jefferson County Sheriff

An elderly Alabama man who opened fire at a church potluck in June, killing three elderly people, has been indicted for murder.

Robert Findlay Smith, 70, was indicted on capital murder charges by a grand jury in the fatal shootings of Walter “Bart” Rainey, 84, Sarah Yeager, 75, and Jane Pounds, 84, the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office announced Friday.

"Smith has been indicted for capital murder for killing two or more people," District Attorney Danny Carr said in a statement, the Associated Press reported. "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 toward holding Smith accountable."

Police were dispatched to St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Vestavia Hills at approximately 6:30 p.m. on June 16, after receiving reports of an active shooter. Upon arrival, authorities located the three victims. Rainey was pronounced dead on the scene, while Yeager and Pounds were taken to a hospital, where they later died.

Investigators say Smith pulled out a loaded handgun in the middle of the potluck and opened fire, striking the three victims.

Vestavia Hills Pd

According to the Associated Press, Smith began firing moments after he was invited by another longtime church member to sit with attendees at a table during the church’s “Boomers Potluck” dinner.

Another church member subdued Smith by hitting him with a chair and wrestling him to the ground until law enforcement arrived, police said.

“It was extremely critical in saving lives,’’ Vestavia Hills police Capt. Shane Ware said of the man's actions, according to AL.com. “In my opinion, he’s a hero.”

According to the Vestavia Hills Police Department, Smith was an “occasional attendee” of the church. A motive in the triple shooting hasn’t been released. Smith doesn't appear to have a criminal record for any prior violent crimes, per AL.com.

Moses Stone, Smith’s defense counsel, didn't immediately respond to messages left by Oxygen.com on Monday morning requesting comment.

Smith is being held without bond at a Jefferson County detention center in Birmingham, according to online jail records obtained by Oxygen.com. A date hasn’t yet been set for his trial.

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