Church beating suspect pleads guilty to attempted murder

By Arnold Wyrick - bio | email

ANNA, IL (KFVS) - The man charged with beating and robbing two elderly women in the Anna First Baptist Church, pleads guilty to two counts of attempted murder.

The beating took place on the morning of September 28th, that's when police say 46-year-old Willis Bates walked into the church office and attacked Leona Mount and Mary Shepherd.

On Tuesday morning Bates pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted murder in connection with the attack.

"There's not enough time. There isn't enough time for them to get help. There wasn't enough time for them to heal. There won't be enough time in their lives for them to get over it. So why should he only have twenty-five years to deal with it," said Gwendolyn Willis of Anna.

Prosecutors say the bates guilty plea will keep him behind bars for at least two decades. And let the victims and their families avoid  having to step into a courtroom.

"I think he should have got twice what he got. But, he did get plenty," said Barney Barnhart.

"I think if he survives it he will be an old man when he comes out."

Members of the Anna First Baptist Church are relieved that the case is over. And that their church and community can move one.

I'm glad he pleaded guilty. This will give those women and their families some closure. If it was me I'd want to see justice," said Golda Kesler.

"This is justified because that was probably the worst thing to ever happen to our little community. This is a good thing that he's been sentenced," said Pat Haire.

The two victims families also issued a statement thanking the community and their church family for all their prayers and support.  They added that this day marks another milestone in their healing and restoration process.

Willis Bates was sentenced to 23 year terms behind bars in the Illinois Department of Corrections on each count.

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