NEW ORLEANS (CBS Houston) — The wife of a Louisiana man charged with killing a preacher had filed a rape complaint against the pastor two days before the shooting, but it’s not yet clear if there was an assault or a consensual sexual relationship, a sheriff said Monday.
Woodrow Karey is charged with fatally shooting 53-year-old Ronald Harris Sr. during a revival service Friday at the Tabernacle of Praise Worship Center in Lake Charles.
Calcasieu Parish Sheriff Tony Mancuso told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Monday that Harris and the suspect’s wife had exchanged text messages before she filed the rape complaint.
The sheriff’s department says Karey found the messages on his wife’s cellphone on Sept. 21, a few days before she filed the complaint and less than a week before the shooting.
It’s not clear if there was a consensual relationship or not, and that will be a focus of the investigation, Mancuso said.
“We’re trying to put all the pieces together,” Mancuso said.
The sheriff declined to release a copy of the rape complaint, saying it’s part of the ongoing investigation.
Mancuso said search warrants for phone records and other evidence may help paint a better picture of what led to the pastor’s death.
Mancuso said Karey was cooperative earlier in the investigation but is no longer talking. The name of his attorney was not immediately available.
Karey was scheduled to appear by video from jail for a court hearing Tuesday morning to determine if he can afford to hire his own lawyer or if one should be appointed to him.
Mancuso planned to talk to Karey’s wife.
The suspect’s wife did not immediately respond to a message at her place of employment on Monday. Calls to the couple’s home rang unanswered on Monday.
The pastor’s relatives and church members say the 53-year-old suspect was once a member of the church but left several years ago without explanation.
Wendy Bernard, a church secretary and Harris family friend, was with the pastor’s family Monday morning and said Karey had never shown signs of hostility, “none at all.”
The Harris family could not immediately be reached for comment about the rape complaint. Calls to the pastor’s house went unanswered after the sheriff disclosed the complaint.
Talisha Harris, the pastor’s daughter, said in an interview over the weekend that preaching had not yet begun Friday night when the gunman burst into the sanctuary.
She said a woman who had been handing out visitor packets at the front door ran in, shouting, “He got a gun! He got a gun! He got a gun!”
“He came in down the middle aisle. He shot at my daddy” but hit a flower pot, Harris said. “My daddy ran. He shot him in the back. When he fell, he came closer and shot him again.”
The gunman ran out a side door, she said.
Kim Myers, spokeswoman for the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office, has said that Karey has no known history of crime or mental troubles. She said he called police to surrender minutes after the shooting and told deputies where to find a shotgun and a .22-caliber pistol he had left in nearby woods.
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