Manslaughter trial gets underway

Witnesses say victim, accused were once ‘like brothers’

Trial Pastor shooting

The trial of a man charged with manslaughter began Thursday in state district court as witnesses talked of having been close to both the accused and the man who was killed and that the two men were once “like brothers.”

Woodrow Karey Jr., 58, is accused of walking into Tabernacle of Praise Worship Center during a revival service on Sept. 27, 2013, and shooting Ronald J. Harris, 51, twice with a shotgun.

{{tncms-inline content="<p><strong>‘Woodrow Karey shot the pastor in the back. Then he straddled him and shot him again. … I have had nightmares upon nightmares about that night.’ </strong></p> <p><strong>Annette Valentine </strong></p> <p>Witness</p>" id="385e8112-61dd-4197-bafb-17e5f3b175a8" style-type="quote" title="Pull Quote" type="relcontent"}}

Prosecutor Cynthia Killingsworth told the jury that “Karey will tell of learning that the pastor had been in an affair with his wife but we can’t ask Pastor Harris what happened because he isn’t here. Violating marital vows is not a reason to kill or be killed.”

Todd S. Clemons, defense attorney for Karey, said that Harris and Karey’s wife Janet “were not lovers.”

Clemons told the jury that on the week before the shooting, Karey had mistakenly received a text from Harris that was meant for Karey’s wife. In that text, Clemons said Harris used some vulgarities before saying: “You and your family will suffer. Both of you slept around. Did you really think I would ever have you for a wife and worry about who was slipping through my back door?”

He said Karey, just a few days before the shooting, “went to a sheriff substation and reported that Harris had been raping Karey’s wife for 14 years and that he had beaten her. He and his wife also went to a rape crisis center that week. His wife told him that Harris had raped her in their own home.”

Annette Valentine testified that on the night Harris was killed, she was serving as a greeter at the church’s revival. Crying, she told of the pastor being at the pulpit and that she saw Karey come into the church with a shotgun.

“I tried to get them to stop the music but nobody could hear me,” Valentine said. “Woodrow Karey shot the pastor in the back. Then he straddled him and shot him again. Everybody started running and screaming. I have had nightmares upon nightmares about that night.”

Det. Chris Cormier of the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff ’s Office, testified about crime scene photos and of how he documented everything at the scene so there would be a record of it for the future. Gasps were heard from the courtroom as graphic photos were shown of Harris and his wounds.

Tapes of several 911 calls were played in court.

People could be heard crying and screaming as a caller said, “We have a shooting at our church. It’s our pastor and he’s been shot. Oh, Lord Jesus. Oh, God. Help us, please help.”

Another 911 call was from Karey, who told an operator: “I just did something bad. Now I’ve put my guns down. Oh, God.”

Katrina Anders testified that “the pastor was kind of like a dad to me,” before she burst into tears on the stand.

She told defense attorney Adam Johnson that the Karey family and the Harris family had once been “very close” and that Karey had been a deacon in the church.

Anders said she was on the “praise team” during the revival. “I was in the pulpit singing and Pastor Harris came out and he was singing, too, and then Woodrow Karey came in, cocked his gun, and he fired a shot,” she said. “I didn’t know what to do. Pastor Harris tried to run . Then I heard a sound — boom! — it was another gunshot.”

A 16-year-old girl testified of being close to both the Harris and Karey families.

“I loved them all,” she said, “I didn’t have a grandfather because he had died so the pastor was like my grandfather. The Karey family were my godparents. That night, I saw my Parrain (Karey) come running in with a shotgun and he fired it. I was so scared and at first I thought I lost my mom. I just knew somebody got shot. I hid in the bushes outside until it was all over.”

Trial is set to continue today in state district court.

<strong>‘Woodrow Karey shot the pastor in the back. Then he straddled him and shot him again. … I have had nightmares upon nightmares about that night.’</strong>

<strong>Annette Valentine</strong>

Witness

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