A Pentecostal minister was convicted Thursday of first-degree murder...

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A Pentecostal minister was convicted Thursday of first-degree murder in the decapitation slaying of his church handyman, then confessed to the crime in court.

The minister, John David Terry, 47, also was found guilty of arson for setting fire to the Emmanuel Church of Christ Oneness Pentacostal in an attempt to make it appear he and his victim had both died in the blaze.


The sentencing phase of the trial -- to determine whether Terry should be sentenced to death or life in prison -- began immediately after the guilty verdicts were returned.

'Did you kill James Chester Matheny?' defense attorney Lionel Barrett asked Terry after the conviction.

'Yes, sir, I did,' Terry replied.

Terry testified he thought he could start a new life under a different name after reading an article in Soldier of Fortune magazine.

'I just reached a point in my life that I didn't want to live,' Terry said. 'I just felt I was going crazy, losing my mind,' he said.

Prosecutors said Terry shot Matheny in the head, then chopped off all body parts that could identify him, including his head. Terry put the handyman's body in the church then set the building on fire.


The jury deliberated three hours Wednesday and one hour Thursday before convicting Terry of murder and arson.

Terry displayed no outward reaction to the verdict.

Defense attorneys presented no witnesses during the four-day trial but plan to call 12 to 15 during the sentencing hearing.

Barrett said he will argue that Terry suffered a 'mental disorder short of insanity.'

Prosecutors said Terry embezzled church funds and wanted to fake his death so he would be a hero in the eyes of his congregation and his family. He hoped Matheny's body would be burned beyond recognition and investigators would think it was Terry who perished in the blaze, prosecutors said.

Assistant District Attorney John Zimmermann said quick work by firefighters foiled the plan because they doused the blaze in the church before Matheny's body could burn beyond recognition.

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