In the years before he was accused of killing his wife and wounding two pastors, Jeremiah Fogle’s zigzagging lovelife spanned at least six other marriages and another violent death: A previous wife died at his hands more than two decades ago.
From left, Laura Gardin, sister of Theresa Fogle, and Jon Gardin, Laura’s husband, talk about the shooting in Lakeland, Fla. on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2011.
Fogle, now 57, managed to get only probation in 1987 after pleading guilty to manslaughter for shooting the woman he was married to back then. The slain woman’s daughter says she’s shocked he never went to prison.
“If you already killed one person and got away with it, why would you do it again? It’s disturbing,” said 31-year-old Shekema Clark of Tampa.
The outrage is shared by Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, who’s investigating the latest shootings.
“Of the seven, he’s managed to kill two of them,” Judd told reporters. “I wouldn’t want to marry him if he gets out again.”
Fogle was charged with murder and attempted murder after Sunday’s shootings and was ordered held without bail at a hearing Monday. He appeared stoic and did not speak at the hearing, where he appeared via video conference. Fogle was assigned a public defender.
Authorities said he killed his 56-year-old wife, Theresa, with three shots at their home and then wounded a pastor and associate pastor at the nearby Greater Faith Christian Center Church — where Fogle had once been a deacon. The Fogles were married there in 2002.
The congregation was bowing their heads in prayer when Fogle burst inside. Church members were able to tackle him, take away the gun and hold him until deputies arrived.
Callers to a 911 dispatcher described a chaotic scene with people running and screaming from the church, where four or five shots were heard. One call came from one of the victims, although the man did not give his name.
“There’s a man that just shot us,” the caller says. “Please help us, ma’am. Please. I been shot.”
Authorities and relatives said the Fogles had been members of the church before starting their own ministry out of their home. Judd said Fogle had a falling out six years ago with one of the wounded pastors, William Boss, after Boss asked Fogle to take a sabbatical “because some women in the church complained about the way he hugged them.”
Judd said investigators found a journal, three letters and a note in the Fogles’ home that appeared to be in Theresa Fogle’s handwriting. The contents appeared to involve Theresa Fogle’s confessions to infidelity and contained names of 25 men, the sheriff said, but it was not clear if the writings were done voluntarily.
Investigators also found a Bible open to a passage in Matthew, quoting Jesus as saying: “Think not that I have come to destroy the law, or the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” Judd said it was not clear what the passage, part of the Sermon on the Mount, might have had to do with Sunday’s events.
Years earlier, Fogle was originally charged with murder in the death of his then-wife, Diane, but the charge was reduced to manslaughter.
An affidavit from the earlier killing states Fogle answered the door holding a rifle and showed an Avon Park police officer Diane Fogle’s body. His 10-year-old stepson told investigators he heard Fogle call an ambulance and say he shot someone and wanted to kill himself.
Prosecutors recommended probation instead of prison, saying that Fogle had handled the rifle in a “negligent, careless and reckless manner,” according to court documents. The documents do not explain why the charge was reduced or why prosecutors recommended probation.
Clark, the slain woman’s daughter, said Monday the couple had been married only about five months when her mother was shot on the bedroom floor. Clark, who was 6 at the time, said that her stepfather was an argumentative husband, and that her mother refrained from arguing back.
Clark said she didn’t know Fogle never went to prison until she heard of Sunday’s shootings.
Another of Fogle’s former wives, 54-year-old Dovie Sanders of Sebring, said they were married for only about six months at a young age and divorced. Sanders said Fogle once showed up at her house and asked her to marry him again, but never threatened her.
“He was OK with me, but I just couldn’t stay with him,” said Sanders, who was Fogle’s first wife. “He couldn’t ever tell me he loved me.”
At Sunday’s service, Derrick Foster, a teacher at Greater Faith, told The Associated Press he heard gunfire and screams before he and another man tackled Fogle.
“The first thing in my mind was, ‘I have to take this gun away,'” said Foster, who was among the 20 or so people at the service.
Foster saw the man near the pulpit, turning around with the gun in his hand. He said it took three or four minutes of struggling before he finally wrested the weapon away.
“What’s amazing is, he was laughing. Not audibly, but he had this sinister look on his face. He looked like he was happy for doing it,” Foster said. “I don’t think I’m a hero, but at that time it was fight or flight.”
The gunman had six additional rounds in his pocket. “He was prepared to shoot even more,” Judd said.
Boss and associate pastor Carl Stewart were shot from behind, authorities said. Boss was shot in the head, and Stewart was shot three times in the back and ear. They remained hospitalized Monday but were able to see visitors. No one else at the church was hurt.
“Quite frankly, it is by the grace of God that they are alive today,” Judd said. “They should be dead.”
Eva Henderson was talking on the phone in her driveway when she heard gunshots across the street and watched panicked parishioners run out of the church. Boss came around from the back before collapsing out front. Church members rushed to his aid, she said.
A church member asked deputies to check on Fogle’s wife, who lived with him a block away in a neighborhood of mobile homes, humble houses and industrial shops. She was found slain inside.
Theresa Fogle’s sister, Maria Beauford, said she had never known Jeremiah Fogle to be violent toward her sister. He had been sick over the past year and had back surgery, and Theresa Fogle nursed him back to health, Beauford said.
Beauford said Monday that her family knew nothing about Jeremiah Fogle’s past marriages or criminal record, and that her sister probably didn’t know, either.
“She did not know everything, and if she did, she didn’t tell anyone about it,” Beauford said. “He always gave us the impression that he was jovial, happy, glad to see us. That’s why we’re still in shock.”
Source: The AP
Associated Press writers Mike Schneider, Jennifer Kay, Christine Armario and Curt Anderson contributed to this report.