DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — The widow of a pastor slain with eight others at a historic South Carolina church said Tuesday that shielding her young daughters will be a priority during an upcoming murder trial expected to “open up wounds again.”
Jennifer Pinckney gave some of her most extensive public comments about how her family has coped since the death last June of the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who led Emanuel AME Church in Charleston and was a state senator. She addressed the news media hours before speaking at a forum at Duke University on faith and race.
State prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty for Dylann Roof, who’s charged with opening fire at a Bible study in the church. Roof’s trial is scheduled for July.
“It’s going to open up wounds again,” Jennifer Pinckney said of the upcoming trial. “We’re all still torn up by it.”
Still, she’s striving for the girls to lead normal lives by attending school, church and dance lessons.
“Our youngest was there. I cannot instill in her to be fearful of going places and fearful of other people,” she said. “You just can’t have that sense of fear.”
Close friends including the Rev. Kylon Middleton and the Rev. Chris Vaughn, who were speaking at Duke with Pinckney, have helped with everything from taking the girls to after-school activities to attending court dates.
“They have literally just wrapped their arms around us,” she said.
She and Middleton went to clean out her late husband’s office at Emanuel about a week after his funeral, and afterward they stood and cried in the room where the victims were gunned down.
“We saw the bullet holes. It was very, very difficult,” she said.
She said she is likely to attend part of Roof’s trial, but will largely rely on friends to represent the family and give her updates.
“It will not be my sitting there every single day,” she said.
Roof, who is white, also faces federal charges including hate crimes in the killings at the historically black church. A hearing in the federal case is set for Thursday.
Asked if she supported the death penalty for Roof, Pinckney said she wasn’t focused on the legal process. She did say, however, that “justice has to be served.”