Suspect accused of stabbing man 3 times during church

Officers say the victim was stabbed three times during a worship service.

Wedgefield, SC (WLTX) - What may have started as a normal Sunday School service soon turned into a crime scene, according to Sumter County deputies.

One second, a parishioner at St. Paul A.M.E. Church Shaw in Sumter County was attending a church service. The next, deputies say he was stabbed by the man sitting behind him. 

"I've never heard of anything like this," said Ken Bell, the public information officer at the Sumter County Sheriff's Department.

Bell says the suspect is 65-year-old Billy Lewis of Wedgefield, South Carolina.

"He apparently during the service according to witnesses just stood up and began stabbing the man in front of him," Bell said.

Bell says Lewis stabbed the victim three times.

"Once in the head, once in the shoulder, and once in the neck," Bell explained.

Both the suspect and the victim are parishioners of the church, but Bell says there did not seem to be a motive.

"There'd been no argument," Bell said, "as far as we know there'd been no animosity between the victim and the suspect."

Officials tell us the victim is also in his 60's. A nurse who was at the church tended to his stab wounds until help arrived.

"The victim was airlifted out because his injuries appeared very serious," Bell said.

Until now, Bell says the suspect's only run in with law enforcement have been for traffic tickets.

"Mr. Lewis does have a history of mental illness although he doesn't have a violent past," Bell said. "This is the first time we've ever known violence so this is really a surprise for all of us."

A surprise Bell says is even more shocking given the location.

"Especially in church, you know, you don't think about parishioners coming in and attacking each other," Bell said.

The pastor of St. Paul A.M.E. did not wish to speak on camera, but Bell tells us they say they are praying for both the suspect and the victim. The victim was taken to Palmetto Health Richland and was in stable condition at last check.

Officials say there could be other charges filed against Lewis later. His bond hearing is set for Monday, October 24, 2016 at 2 PM at the Sumter County Jail.


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