Jury Rejects Parole in 4 Slayings at Waffle House

Travis Reinking was convicted of first-degree murder for 2018 shootings in Nashville, Tenn.
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 5, 2022 5:30 AM CST
Updated Feb 5, 2022 2:55 PM CST
Verdict Is In for Waffle House Suspect
Patricia Perez begins to weep while giving a victim impact statement Saturday in Nashville.   (Nicole Hester/The Tennessean via AP, Pool)

Update: After listening to relatives testify for two hours Saturday about their loved ones who were killed at a Waffle House in 2018, a jury decided to impose a life sentence in prison without the possibility of parole on Travis Reinking. Family members sobbed as they told the court in Nashville, Tenn., about the effect of their losses, the AP reports. "This has broken me," said Patricia Perez, whose son Joey was killed, through tears. Jurors could have given the convicted killer a chance at parole after serving 51 years in prison. Our original story from earlier today follows:

A man who shot and killed four people at a Waffle House in Nashville, Tenn., in 2018 was found guilty on four counts of first-degree murder Friday by a jury that rejected his insanity defense. Travis Reinking, 33, didn't dispute the details of the shooting, which was caught on surveillance video and witnessed by numerous people, per the AP. Reinking looked in the direction of his parents, sitting in the gallery, after the jury read the first of 16 guilty verdicts, but otherwise he showed minimal reaction. Meanwhile, survivors of the shooting and family members sitting across the aisle audibly gasped, crying and hugging as they left the courtroom.

Naked save for a green jacket, Reinking opened fire inside the restaurant just after 3:20am on April 22, 2018, killing Taurean Sanderlin, 29; Joey Perez, 20; Akilah Dasilva, 23; and DeEbony Groves, 21. He fled after restaurant patron James Shaw Jr. wrestled his assault-style rifle away from him, triggering a manhunt. Evidence presented during the trial showed Reinking had schizophrenia and had suffered delusions for years, believing that unknown people were tormenting him. He contacted law enforcement several times to report that he was being threatened, stalked, and harassed. In July 2017, he was detained by the Secret Service after he ventured unarmed into a restricted area on the White House grounds and demanded to meet with then-President Donald Trump.

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To prove Reinking wasn't guilty by reason of insanity, defense attorneys had to show not only that he suffered from a severe mental illness, but also that the illness left him unable to understand the wrongfulness of his actions. Prosecutors presented evidence that Reinking was calm and cooperative after his arrest, able to understand and respond to commands. They noted that although Reinking was naked when he walked from the crime scene, when he was captured nearly two days later, he was dressed and carrying a backpack loaded with water bottles, sunscreen, a pistol, ammunition, a Bible, and several silver bars. They mentioned he had also asked to talk to an attorney after his arrest. The jury on Friday also convicted Reinking on four counts of attempted first-degree murder and four counts of unlawful employment of a firearm during commission of or attempt to commit a dangerous felony. In addition to the four people he killed, he seriously wounded Sharita Henderson and Shantia Waggoner. Kayla Shaw and James Shaw Jr., who aren't related, suffered lesser injuries. "True justice is having my son here," Dasilva's mother, Shaundelle Brooks, told reporters after the verdict. "This is the closest [thing] to true justice."

(More Travis Reinking stories.)

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