Big stories of 2019: Antioch church shooter convicted

Posted at 1:48 PM, Dec 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-24 20:26:01-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Emanuel Samson stood accused of a church shooting in Antioch -- killing one and injuring several others in 2017. It took two years, but Samson finally stood trial for his crimes this past May and it was one of the year's top stories.

It didn't take the jury long to convicted Samson. Jurors returned the verdict in less than five hours of deliberation. It was not really a surprise.

The 25-year-old Samson had admitted to the shooting at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch in September of two years ago.

There was no doubt he was there -- firing several rounds -- killing 39-year-old Melanie Crow and wounding several others.

"The nightmare. The screams. Every time you close your eyes you see the people laying in the foyer, the blood, everything," testified Robert Caleb Engle, a witness.

Despite Samson's confession, he still pleaded not guilty and there was no talk of a plea deal. So, after he was deemed competent, the case finally went to trial.

The evidence included jailhouse phone calls to his girlfriend back in 2017 -- where Samson seemed oblivious to the seriousness of the charges against him.

"Please dream about me baby. I dream about you every night."

"Aw baby, we had so many plans for our future... you know?"

"And we still do."

"So many plans."

"Don't say we did because we still do."

"I'm trying to keep my mind positive."

The jury did not buy the defense's argument that the shooting was not premeditated and that Samson was suicidal.

In contrast, prosecutors told them Samson went to the church intent on killing white churchgoers as retaliation for the 2015 Charleston Church shooting -- where African-American churchgoers were killed by a white supremacist.

At Samson's sentencing, witnesses and victims told the court how his actions changed their lives.

"Sunday, September 24, 2017 is a day that will never cease from entering my mind every morning, day and night," Testified witness Tammy Luker.

Prosecutors chose not to seek the death penalty against Samson. He was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole.