Police: Man shoots, kills ex at church service

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Associated Press

Posted on December 3, 2012 at 8:29 AM

Updated Monday, Dec 3 at 12:51 PM

COUDERSPORT, Pa. (AP) — An elementary school music teacher walked into a church in the middle of Sunday services and shot and killed his ex-wife as she sat in a pew, police said.

Gregory Eldred, 52, of Coudersport, has been charged with first-degree murder, simple assault, terroristic threats and reckless endangerment, accused twice shooting Darlene Sitler, 53, at the First United Presbyterian Church.

Witnesses told police they saw Eldred pacing outside the 180-year-old church before the service and that other members of the congregation grabbed Eldred after the shooting and held him until police arrived.

Sitler served as organist and choir director at the church.

The shooting happened about 11:20 a.m., but nobody else was injured.

The defense attorney listed in online court records did not immediately return a call for comment Monday.

Eldred has taught music at the borough’s elementary school since 1986.

Trooper Michael Knight told the Bradford Era newspaper on Sunday that Eldred allegedly walked down the church’s middle aisle and fired two shots at Sitler.

Trooper Knight told the newspaper there were no children in the church when the shooting happened, but that police bused all those who witnessed the shooting to a building which houses Potter County offices so they could be interviewed by police. Mental health counseling was also being made available to those witnesses, Knight said.

Potter County Commissioner Susan Kefover told the newspaper the shooting was “devastatingly tragic for the community.”

“It’s hard to even comprehend it. You just feel this tremendous grief and you’re trying to process what happened,” Kefover said.

In addition to her church duties, Sitler taught music at the Northern Potter Children’s School, an elementary school that neighbors the district where her ex-husband taught, for nearly 30 years. A secretary told The Associated Press that North Potter administrators were meeting Monday to discuss the shooting, but the superintendent was not immediately available to comment.

Officials with the Coudersport Area School District, where Eldred taught about 140 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, did not immediately return a call and email for comment. Eldred also played clarinet for the Southern Tier Symphony Orchestra in Allegany, N.Y. where officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

 

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