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Alvin Lee King III, charged with storming a church...

DAINGERFIELD, Texas -- Alvin Lee King III, charged with storming a church service an killing five people in a spray of gunfire 18 months ago, apparently committed suicide in his jail cell Tuesday, officials said.

The former high school math teacher was to have appeared in court a few hours later for the third day of a hearing to decide whether to relocate a trial to determine if he was mentally capable of standing trial in the June 22, 1980, shooting rampage at the First Baptist Church.

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Alvin Lee King III, charged with storming a church service an killing five people in a spray of gunfire, apparently committed suicide in his jail cell Tuesday, officials said.

Officials said Tuesday night that although they ha not received written confirmation, an autopsy completed in Dallas indicated King ha committed suicide.

The former high school math teacher was to have appeared in court a few hours later for the third day of a hearing to decide whether to relocate a trial to determine if he was mentally capable of standing trial in the June 22, 1980, shooting rampage at the First Baptist Church.

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King, who shot himself in the hea after the shooting spree that occurred one day before he was to go on trial on an incest charge, a been undergoing treatment at various hospitals since the rampage.

Morris County Sheriff Joe Skipper said King was found hanging from strips of a towel in his single cell about 5:25 a.m. Deputies had last checked him at 3:45 a.m.

'They found him in his cell with a towel wrapped around his neck and attached to a bar,' said defense attorney Dick DeGuerin.

Authorities believe King, wearing a military helmet an armed with two rifles ith bayonets and two revolvers, burst into the brick church during a crowded morning service shouting 'This is war' because some church members had refused to testify in his behalf at the incest trial.

King sprayed the congregation with bullets from an M-16 rifle until one man wrestled him partially out of the church, authorities said. The man was gunned down an another man took up the struggle, but he also was killed. A 7-year-old girl was among those to die. Several people were injured.

King then ran out of the church an across the street, where he fired a bullet from a .22-caliber pistol into his left temple just above his eye.

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District Attorney Jim Stanley said he had ordered King's body to be taken to Dallas for an autopsy.

'I have no reason to be believe it was anything but suicide,' said Stanley, adding he had found nothing wrong with the Sheriff's Department security for King but asked Texas Ranger Brantley Foster to assist the district attorney's office to assure an impartial investigation into the death.

DeGuerin said was 'sure' his client would have been granted a change of venue and was shocked upon learning of King's death.

The attorney said he did not know whether the playing of a tape recording of the church service during which King's attack could be heard at Monday's hearing ha any impact on King.

'I can't say what the impact was on him (King),' DeGuerin said.

'From the results of the hearing, any rational sane man would have been encouraged. I was convinced we were going to be granted a change of venue to get a jury from an outside county to hear his case.'

Officials at Rusk State Hospital in December said King was competent to face trial in the shootings and returned him to Daingerfield.

A hearing was scheduled next week on the matter, but King's attorneys wanted to move it because they felt he could not receive a fair competency trial in the small town.

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District Judge B.D. Moye a been expected to rule Tuesday on the request, which prosecutors opposed.

District Attorney Jim Stanley said he had ordered King's body to be taken to Dallas for an autopsy.

'I have no reason to be believe it was anything but suicide,' said Stanley, adding he had found nothing wrong with the sheriff's department security for King but had asked Texas Ranger Brantley Foster to assist the district attorney's office to assure an impartial investigation into the death.

DeGuerin said was 'sure' his client would have been granted a change of venue and was shocked upon learning of King's death.

The attorney said he did not know whether the playing of a tape recording of the church service during which King's attack could be heard at Monday's hearing ha any impact on King.

'I can't say what the impact was on him (King),' DeGuerin said.

'From the results of the hearing, any rational sane man would have been encouraged. I was conlvinced we were going to be granted a change of venue to get a jury from an outside county to hear his case.'

DeGuerin said King's wife, Gretchen, an son, Alvin IV, a testified for the change of venue and said 'they'd been ostracized by local society.'

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The lawyer said Mrs. King, who ha no contact with King following the shootings, a been rejected for teaching jobs in several places.

Attorneys also argued King, described as a loner an snobbish by former associates at Daingerfield High School, was not competent to aid in his own defense at a murder trial, despite the ruling by Rusk doctors.

Asked if King ha been distraught recently, DeGuerin said: 'I'm not a psychiatrist.

'I think any unbiased jury that was not under the type of pressure that was obviously prevalent in that (Morris) county would have found him insane at the time of offense,' he said.

The sheriff described King, who was transferred to the county jail Dec. 3, as a model inmate. 'If there is such a thing as a model prisoner, he was one,' Skipper said.

King, who shot himself in the hea after the shooting spree, which occurred one day before he was to go on trial on an incest charge, a been undergoing treatment at various hospitals since.

Morris County Sheriff Joe Skipper said King was found hanging from strips of a towel in his single cell about 5:25 a.m. Deputies had last checked him at 3:45 a.m.

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'They found him in his cell with a towel wrapped around his neck and attached to a bar,' said defense attorney Dick DeGuerin.

Authorities believe King, wearing a military helmet an armed with two rifles with bayonets and two revolvers, burst into the brick church during a crowded morning service shouting 'This is war!' because some church members had refused to testify in his behalf at the incest trial.

King sprayed the congregation with bullets from an M-16 rifle until one man wrestled him partially out of the church, authorities said. That man was gunned down an another took up the struggle, but he also was killed. A 7-year-old girl was among those to die. Several people were injured.

King then ran out of the church an across the street, where he fired a bullet from a .22-caliber pistol into his left temple just above his eye.

Officials at Rusk State Hospital in December said King was competent to face trial in the shootings and returned him to Daingerfield.

A hearing was scheduled next week on the matter, but King's attorneys wanted to move it because they felt he could not receive a fair competency trial in the small town.

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District Judge B.D. Moye a been expected to rule Tuesday on the request, which prosecutors opposed.

District Attorney Jim Stanley said he ordered King's body taken to Dallas for an autopsy.

'I have no reason to be believe it was anything but suicide,' said Stanley, who added that he had asked Texas Ranger Brantley Foster to assist the district attorney's office to assure an impartial investigation into the death.

DeGuerin said he did not know how King might have been affected by a tape recording of the church service attack that was played at Monday's hearing.

'I can't say what the impact was on him (King),' DeGuerin said.

'From the results of the hearing, any rational sane man would have been encouraged. I was convinced we were going to be granted a change of venue to get a jury from an outside county to hear his case.'

DeGuerin said King's wife, Gretchen, an son, Alvin IV, a testified for the change of venue and said 'they'd been ostracized by local society.'

The lawyer said Mrs. King, who ha no contact with King following the shootings, a been rejected for teaching jobs in several places.

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Attorneys also arguedthat King, described as a loner an snobbish by former associates at Daingerfield High School, was not competent to aid in his own defense at a murder trial, despite the ruling by Rusk doctors.

Asked if King ha been distraught recently, DeGuerin said: 'I'm not a psychiatrist.'

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