Trial begins for former pastor charged with murder

Published 5:34 pm Monday, October 19, 2009

Jury selection and a few pieces of state-submitted evidence marked the first day of hearings Oct. 19 in the murder trial of a Vincent pastor charged with the 2005 shooting death of his wife.

Timothy Dane Tillman, the 46-year-old former pastor of the Revival Center in Vincent, faces murder charges for allegedly shooting his wife, Janet Lorita Tillman, with a shotgun at the couple’s house on Carr Drive on Oct. 26, 2005.

Tillman was arrested and charged with the crime 2007, and was out on a $500,000 bond before the trial began in the Shelby County Circuit Court.

Though the trial’s first day consisted mostly of jury selection, defense attorney Erskine Mathis and prosecutor Alan Miller gave brief opening statements before the state called its first witness. Circuit Court Judge Daniel Reeves is presiding over the trial.

Miller explained to the jury he planned to prove the couple had faced domestic issues before the suspect intentionally murdered his wife.

However, Mathis claimed the defendant accidently shot Janet Tillman when his shotgun struck a wooden door frame.

“We are going to be able to show, through photographic evidence, that this was an accident,” Mathis told the jury. “Tim Tillman is not a saint. He was not a good person or a good husband, but he is not a murderer.”

During about a 15-minute testimony, Joan Croft, Janet Tillman’s sister, told the jury she read an e-mail on the victim’s work computer following the shooting. The e-mail, Croft said, was sent to the victim from Timothy Tillman, and contained a letter of apology from the defendant.

“Until we replaced her at work, we didn’t replace her e-mail,” Croft said, noting she worked with her sister at Stanley Steemer.

In the e-mail, Timothy Tillman apologized for “not being the most pleasant person,” and vowed to change his attitude, Croft said. The e-mail had been sent to the victim about six weeks before the shooting, Croft added.

The trial was scheduled to resume at 9 a.m. Oct. 20.