“A man on trial for manslaughter took the stand Tuesday in state district court and told a jury about shooting a pastor nearly five years ago during a church service, saying the pastor raped his wife and was “treacherous.”
Woodrow Karey Jr., 58, told jurors he walked into Tabernacle of Praise Worship Center during a revival service on Sept. 27, 2013, and shot Ronald J. Harris, 51, twice with a shotgun.
The prosecution has said Harris was having an affair with Karey’s wife; the defense has said Karey’s wife was raped by Harris for years.
Before testimony began, there was a discussion between the judge, defense, and prosecution regarding information the defense wanted included at trial. The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal said some things could be included while others could not. Judge Clayton Davis had earlier ruled against the evidence being included.
Defense attorney Adam Johnson told Davis that he believed the court is saying it isn’t following the “evidence code. State of mind (Karey’s) is the whole issue in this case.”
Prosecutor Cynthia Killingsworth told Davis that “”the rules are very clear that if the defendant wants to put certain information before the court, he has every right to take the stand.”
Late afternoon on Tuesday, he did take the stand.
Todd S. Clemons, defense attorney, asked Karey why he shot Harris and he said the pastor “was a threat to my family. When one thing ended, another thing started. I had thought Pastor Harris was a good man and I always knew him to be that. He was my friend and my pastor.”
He told the jury he had known Harris since 1992 and that while Harris was pastor, “I did some of everything at the church. I was a door greeter, played the drums, was a deacon, mowed the grass, helped clean the church, and helped some of the older men in the church with getting their haircuts.”
Clemons asked him if it was true that he let things go at his own home so that he could help take care of the pastor’s home and he said that was true.
“I would cut the grass at the pastor’s home, fix things at his house, and even cleaned out the sewer system at his home,” Karey said. “I stuck my hands in the actual sewage system and cleared out the blockages.” He said he and his wife also loaned the pastor and his family money and signed for vehicle and furniture loans.
Karey said it was difficult reconciling the Harris he knew as his long-time pastor and friend with the man who sent a string of texts he mistakenly received the week of the shooting that were meant for Karey’s wife Janet.
He told Clemons he was blindsided by the texts and that “nobody preached harder than Pastor Harris about adultery. He preached it like he believed it.”
Some of the texts had vulgar language and used derogatory terms to describe his wife. Another text said: “You and your family will suffer.”
Karey told Clemons that as he and his wife began to discuss the texts in greater detail, she told him that she had been “continuously raped by Pastor Harris for 14 years. She couldn’t get away from him. He would stalk her, follow her in her car, and verbally and physically abuse her. He raped her in our own home.”
Clemons told Karey that the jury wanted to know why he killed a man in the church. “I wasn’t thinking, eating, or sleeping,” Karey said. “I was hearing more threats (from Harris) every day. The church is where I saw the threat because that’s where he was.”
Karey said he and his wife had gone to a sheriff sub-station the week they got the texts to “report the rapes.”
The day of the shooting, Karey said he called the investigator at the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office to “find out if an arrest had been made” and found out that the investigation had not been completed.
“I knew by this point that he was a threat,” Karey said. “He raped, beat, and abused my wife. Pastor Harris was a reprobate.”
Karey said his wife didn’t know where he was going when he left their home on the evening of the shooting.
“I drove to Tabernacle of Praise, parked, took my shotgun out, went into the church and shot Pastor Harris,” Karey said. “He tried to take off. When I got to him, he was on the floor with his hands to his face and I shot him.”
Karey said he then called 911 to report he had shot Harris and he gave his name and told the operator he was putting his weapons away.
He said he flagged down deputies as their vehicles approached the scene. As he was read his rights and being arrested, he said he told them: “He (Harris) raped my wife.”
Trial is set to resume today in state district court. “