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Gardendale pastor found not guilty of killing wife in 2013 must continue court-ordered mental health treatment

Gardendale pastor found not guilty of killing wife in 2013 must continue court-ordered mental health treatment

A former Alabama Methodist preacher found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect in the 2013 killing of his wife and wounding of his teen daughter, wanted to be free of all court-ordered mental health treatment.

Terry Lee Greer, now 64, asked a Jefferson County judge to release him from any further requirements so that he can move to Virginia to be close to family there and in Tennessee.

Jefferson County Circuit Judge Michael Streety, however, said while he would allow Greer to move out of the state, he must continue with court-ordered mental health treatment.

Streety said he has a responsibility to protect the public and even Greer.

“I can’t predict what the future holds for Mr. Greer,’’ Streety said. “I can’t say that he’s going to be in the custody of the Department of Mental Health for the rest of his life or not.”

“The one thing that is an overwhelming concern is the unpredictability of what’s going to happen in the future,’’ the judge said.

In 2013, Greer was senior pastor at Mt. Vernon United Methodist Church.

He had been the longtime preacher at First United Methodist Church in Decatur until 2012 when was transferred at the annual conference to Mount Vernon United Methodist in Gardendale.

Greer’s wife, Lisa, 52, was shot multiple times, including once in the head, at their Gardendale home on Jan. 12, 2013.

Their 18-year-old daughter, Suzanna, was shot multiple times after Greer chased her into a closet, continually firing on her before she wrestled the gun away from him and fled the church parsonage on Country Meadows Drive to a neighbor’s home.

In 2014, now retired Jefferson County Circuit Judge Tommy Nail ordered that Greer was not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect.

At the time, Nail said Greer posed a danger to himself and others and committed him to a state institution. He was held initially at Taylor Hardin Secure Medical Facility in Tuscaloosa.

Since then, restrictions on Greer have been systematically lessened.

In September, Greer’s longtime friend and attorney, Henry Lagman, filed a request for unconditional release for Greer.

Lagman, in the filing, said Greer was held in the Jefferson County Jail for one year and one month before he was transferred to Bryce mental hospital in Tuscaloosa, where he stayed for three years and one month.

In 2018, the court released Greer into the custody of Hillside Therapeutic Group home in Wetumpka where he stayed for nearly two years before he moved to Seren Manor Assisted Living in Brundidge. At that point, Greer was allowed to leave the state with permission to visit his parents in Tennessee.

He then received more modified conditions and moved to The Crossings at East Chase in Montgomery, where he remains.

Lagman in his motion said Greer’s progress has been exemplary and noted that he even teaches a Bible study at his living facility.

“His mental health condition improved and mitigated the risk of reoffending,’’ the motion stated.

A hearing on the request was held in October, but Streety said he was not confident about making a decision without hearing from a mental health expert.

On Tuesday, Brenda Lampley, of East Central Mental Health Center, testified that she has treated Greer virtually each week for about four years.

Lampley testified that Greer has done well with treatment and has successfully maintained some semblance of independence. She said he is alert and aware and leads a Bible study at his living assisted facility.

“He’s very much aware of the predicament he’s in and why I’m a part of his life,’’ Lampley said.

Asked if he’s shown remorse, Lampley said, “He has, over and over,’’ she said.

Lampley said Greer is “sorry for what happened” and said it was a medical condition that created a psychosis.

Testimony indicated Greer has re-established communication with his daughter, is proud of her accomplishments and sends her money.

“He’s proving that he wants to be here, to make a difference, to show that he can be the person he always was, except for that horrible, horrific accident and be near his family,’’ Lampley said.

Lampley said Greer would benefit from being closer to his family, but she would like him to continue his therapy.

Terry Greer

Terry Greer(AL.com)

Streety asked Lampley if she had any concerns about Greer relapsing, to which she replied, “At this moment I don’t but I can’t foresee the future and that’s why I advocate that he has mental health in place as a safety net.”

Greer, who appeared at the hearing via Zoom from his Montgomery facility, said the assisted living he wants to move to out of state has a full-time nurse practitioner that would administer his medications and would transport him to therapy.

Assistant District Attorney Neal Zarzour recapped the case, saying that in January 2013, Greer had begun to exhibit bizarre behavior at home. That morning, his condition worsened.

“At one point, he referenced getting the family together and ‘taking a car ride up to Heaven,’’’ Zarzour said.

Greer walked back to his bedroom and retrieved a pistol and walked out of the bedroom with a jacket covering the gun. “He approached his wife and daughter, and they asked him what he had in his hand, and he said, ‘I’ve got something for your mom.’’’

“He proceeded to shoot his wife multiple times including once in the head and killed her,’’ he said. “He turned the gun on his daughter, Suzanna, and shot her multiple times – twice in the back and once in the side – she fled to her parents’ bedroom closet to try to get away from him.”

“He pursued her into the closet. She tried to close the door and he was reaching into the closet still firing,’’ Zarzour said.

Suzanna was able to wrestle the gun away from him and ran out the house, which was the church parsonage, to a neighbor’s house for help.

“While the police were responding,’’ Zarzour said, “Mr. Greer goes into the kitchen of the home, retrieves a steak knife and proceeds to plunge that knife into his own chest over 10 times.”

When the first Gardendale police officer got to the scene, Greer reached for that officer’s gun and tried to get it out of the holster. He had to be subdued.

“What has always struck me about this case is the sudden, extremely violent and unpredictable nature of this defendant’s actions that day,’’ the prosecutor said. “They appeared to come out of nowhere. This man was a Methodist minister, he had been married for a long time, absolutely no indication that he was capable of doing something like this.”

“Nobody saw this coming and yet he carried out a very violent, deadly attack that day,’’ Zarzour said.

Zarzour said the experts that evaluated Greer in 2013 all agreed that his condition, which at the time was diagnosed as vascular dementia compounded by a traumatic brain injury, would never get any better. In fact, they testified under oath that it would only worse over time.”

The judge at the time commented that Greer would never leave a secure mental health facility. So, he said, it came as quite a surprise that in 2018 there was a report presented to the court that Greer could be released and step down to a group home.

“Now they’re telling us he’s good to be released,’’ Zarzour said of the 2018 report. “He’s been gradually stepped down and been given more freedoms along the way.”

“It’s true we’ve had no incidents, thank goodness,’’ Zarzour said. “But I would submit to this court that may be because he has safeguards in place.”

“That has been critical in avoiding any repeat of this behavior,’’ he said. “Frankly, he’s got it pretty good at this point. He can come and go as he pleases as far as his daily activities, he can go shopping.”

Zarzour said Greer needs to remain under a court-mandated treatment plan.

“He did completely too much damage out of nowhere for us to say, ‘Well, he’s probably good to go,’’’ Zarzour said.

Zarzour said Suzanna Greer, while she has not voiced opposition to her father’s request, has told him, ‘’that she doesn’t want to run into her dad unexpectedly.”

Lagman, in a tearful, passionate plea to the judge, said Zarzour doesn’t know Greer like he does.

“I’ve known Terry Greer. I’ve known Terry Greer since 1994,’’ the attorney said. “His family album is contained in my family album. He was my minister.”

“He was a fallen shepherd. He fell when he had a heart attack and a car accident and he fell off his deck 19 feet,’’ Lagman said. “He fell and he lost his ability to function in everyday life.”

Lagman said “the perfect storm” of injury and medication had a devastating impact on Greer.

“Because of the medicines he received, he was a poisoned pastor,’’ Lagman said.

“He lost his flock, he lost his self-identity,’’ Lagman said.

Lagman said he received pressure, not support, from his church organization which pushed him to go back to work. Greer, he said, was suicidal which was uncharacteristic of him.

“This has been a very traumatic case for me, but I understand Terry Greer,’’ the attorney said.

Streety said as a judge, he has to rely on the experts say and that’s what he’s doing.

Streety ruled that Greer can relocate to Virginia with court-ordered continued mental health treatment.