Trial for Antioch church shooting suspect starts Monday

Posted at 3:44 PM, May 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-19 16:44:06-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — More than a year-and-a-half later, the trial for the suspect in the deadly Antioch church shooting will get underway Monday.

Emanuel Samson is facing 43 charges including civil rights intimidation and murder for the shooting death of Melanie Crow, 39, in the parking lot of the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ moments after Sunday service.

He’s also accused of injuring seven others inside the building including minister Joey Spann and Robert Engle, the church usher who was pistol-whipped as he restrained Samson until police arrived.

A jury was selected last week and will not be sequestered.

Although authorities said he confessed to the September 2017 shooting, the suspect plead not guilty to all of his charges. In an April hearing, a psychiatrist said Samson had schizoaffective disorder bipolar type and post-traumatic stress disorder from an abusive upbringing, adding he had delusional thoughts and heard voices.

There was a 911 call made by Samson’s father that his son was suicidal months before the shooting.

NewsChannel 5 exclusively obtained more than 140 calls made from jail in the month after the shooting. He referenced “vibrating energies,” indicative of a possible depressing childhood.

“That’s how we have these low vibrating energies within us now. The sad. The sorrow. Because we grew up ion a very low vibrating household. Always drama,” Samson said in one of the phone calls.

Officials said he used a .40 caliber and 9mm handguns during the attack, and found an unloaded semi-automatic AR-15 rifle along with another handgun in the suspect's vehicle.

The case has been closed off to the public after records were sealed last year.

The motive remained unclear but a note was found in the suspect's vehicle which suggested revenge for Dylann Roof, the white supremacist shooter who was convicted in the massacre that killed 9 people at a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Other members mentioned seeing Samson at the church at least a year earlier. He moved from Sudan in 1996 and had been living in Murfreesboro as a legal U.S. resident. Murfreesboro police responded to domestic-related incidents involving his girlfriend in early 2017.

Samson is being represented by Jennifer Thompson, who was also the attorney for Zach Adams, the man convicted in the Holly Bobo murder case. She wanted to suppress evidence collected from her client’s cellphone as recent as February.

Prosecutors don't plan on seeking the death penalty but will pursue life in prison without parole.

NewsChannel5 will have gavel to gavel coverage of the trial.