Monday, September 19, 2011


‘Mad Rage' — Man Held in Wife's Death

Officials say Jeremiah Fogle slew Theresa Fogle, then wounded two ministers.

LAKELAND | When they got to the gunman, deputies found dozens of extra bullets in his pocket — a number that gave Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd reason for pause.

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Lakeland Church Shooting
"We don't know why he went into his mad rage," Judd said. "He was prepared to shoot even more."

Authorities on Sunday arrested Jeremiah Fogle, 57, and said he shot and killed his wife at their home, then stomped through the front doors of the Greater Faith Christian Center Church in West Lakeland and shot two ministers at point-blank range.

The Rev. William Boss, chief pastor at the church, and the Rev. Carl Stewart, the assistant minister, were in Lakeland Regional Medical Center's trauma and ICU units Sunday night.

Authorities said Stewart, who took three shots to the head, shoulder and back, remained in critical condition throughout the day. Boss suffered a non-life-threatening gunshot wound to the head.

Judd said the investigation became more grisly when deputies discovered the body of Fogle's wife, Theresa Fogle, 56, who was shot to death in the living room of the couple's home at 740 Savannah Ave, just one block west of the church. Deputies haven't confirmed the exact time she was killed.

Churchgoers were kneeling in prayer when the shots rang out there, just before 10 a.m.

Judd described the church at 2035 W. Parker St. as a scene of "absolute panic."

Judd said an elderly woman, unable to kneel in prayer, watched as the gunman walked down the center aisle to the front of the church and looked at Boss.

"He walked up to him, looked around, and shot him in the head," the sheriff said.

Judd said Fogle then stepped to the left and shot three times at Stewart, prompting two men in the congregation, Derrick Foster and Corey Reed, to leap up and to wrestle him to the ground. They held him until deputies arrived.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Foster said he and Reed struggled with Fogle for three or four minutes before prying the .32-caliber Colt revolver away from him. A microphone stand toppled during the struggle and cut Fogle on the head, Judd said.

"These men are heroes," he said.

Authorities estimated there were about 18 people in the church at the time of the shooting. One of the 18 bolted from the building and ran to a nearby woman, already on the phone with 911 over a slashed car tire, to ask for help.

Fogle was charged with first-degree murder, three counts of attempted murder and shooting into an occupied dwelling. One of the attempted murder counts stemmed from the fight with Foster, a sheriff's official said.


The sheriff said Fogle's past remains mostly a mystery, though he was arrested on a first-degree murder charge in 1986 in Highlands County. Judd said he could not provide further information about that charge until today, when court clerk offices re-open.

"We're trying to find out what drove him into this killing rage on a Sunday morning," he said.

Standing outside the church, Tinisha Johnson hugged a weeping friend. Johnson's eyes began to water when she described Boss.

"He's just been part of my life ever since I can remember," she said. "He's an awesome man, a faithful man. I just pray that he pulls through it."

Walking the perimeter of the crime scene, Reese King, a radio station sports director, described Boss as "pillar of the community" and praised him for his work in starting the Greater Faith Christian Academy, a school for children in kindergarten through eighth grade.

"He has set a standard for academic greatness," King said. "Most of those kids come from a single-parent family, and what he did was become their parent outside their home. And they really adapt to him."

He said Boss has lived in the community for about two decades, and spent 19 of those years in radio ministry at WWAB-1330.

"His own money from his pocket, I've seen him share it with people who had needs," King said. "I noticed how generous he has been. You've got to walk the walk and talk the talk. And he did it."

Other friends of Boss and Stewart praised them as caring, concerned men who reached outside the church into the community.

Phil Chatmon, a longtime friend, said Boss liked to help people, especially with his year-round school.

"Pastor Boss is a very good person in the community, Chatmon said.


As investigators combed both scenes for evidence, Laura and John Gardin stood outside the Fogles' well-kept house. Laura Gardin began to cry as she spoke about her sister, the oldest of nine siblings.

"I'll always remember the smile on her face," Gardin said. "I know everything happens for a reason. God is too wise for this to happen for no reason."

She said Jeremiah Fogle used to serve as an associate minister at Greater Faith Christian Center Church, and that he married her sister in that church in 2002.

But at some point, she said, Fogle fell into disagreement with the other church leaders and opted to start his own ministry, run out of his house.

"God said we have to forgive and forget, not hold grudges," she said, fighting tears. "He had no right!"

Children on bikes tried to catch a glimpse of detectives as they walked into and out of the Fogles' home, a single-story green house with yellow trim. Neighbors said the couple often worked together on the lawn, pruning pink-petaled bushes beneath tall trees with drooping Spanish moss.

A lone wheelbarrow, still filled with soil, sat slumped against the house.

Neighbors of the Fogles, some of them crying, said they couldn't believe the man they knew would have killed his wife.

"I have never known him to be aggressive," Jackie Green said.

"Such nice people," said Robbie Singletary, who lives a short distance away. "I never would have thought it of him … No matter how busy he was, he stopped to talk to people."

"He stopped me when I'd come down the road and he'd stay there and talk to me," said Doreen Carroll, who lives a couple of blocks away.

"They both did yard work together. They would cut up and laugh."

Singletary and her sister, Mary Evertts, said they knew Fogle had been having health problems. Another woman said he recently had surgery.

"She was always trying to keep him happy," Laura Gardin said.

[ Chase Purdy can be reached at or 863-802-7516. Robin Williams Adams can be reached at or 863-802-7558 ]

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