Testimony: Waffle House shooter wrote to Winfrey, Swift | Messages
NASHVILLE, Tennessee (AP) — A man who shot four people in a Nashville waffle house in 2018 had written to Oprah Winfrey asking for help to determine whether or not his delusions that Taylor Swift was communicating with him over the internet were real, according to testimonies Wednesday.
Metro Nashville Police Detective Desmond Sumerel testified that the letter to Winfrey and another to pop star Swift were found in a safe recovered from Travis Reinking’s apartment. The letter to Winfrey was returned to the sender in 2017. The letter to Swift wasn’t in an envelope.
Reinking faces four counts of first-degree murder, along with other attempted murder and weapons charges stemming from the assault. Prosecutors are seeking a life sentence without the possibility of parole for the 33-year-old accused. He pleaded not guilty by insanity.
Reiking told Winfrey about a concert where he believed Swift said “hello” to him during a song, according to the letter Sumerel read. Afterward, he wrote that he “started noticing that things I said were being repeated to me on the internet.” Reiking also mentioned having a dream in which Swift loses her balance and then watching a movie on Netflix in which the female lead asks a man to help her balance, the letter said.
Reiking also mentioned that she drove 1,000 miles to Swift’s home in Los Angeles at her invitation, only to find it under construction and abandoned. He also wrote that Swift stole unnamed valuable intellectual property from him. And he wrote that Swift told him he was gay and a transvestite and that he needed to “meet a guy to see her.”
Sumerel was the lead detective on the case and testified that he does not remember the letters or did not consider them relevant to his task of proving that Reinking was the person who shot and killed Taurean Sanderlin, 29 had; Joe Perez, 20; Akila Dasilva, 23; and DeEbony Groves, 21, on April 22, 2018. Sharita Henderson and Shantia Waggoner were also seriously injured in the shooting. Kayla Shaw and James Shaw Jr., who are not related, suffered minor injuries.
The defense attorneys do not dispute the essential facts. Reinking was naked except for a green jacket when he opened fire at the restaurant just after 3:20 a.m. on a Sunday. He fled, triggering a manhunt for restaurant patrons James Shaw Jr. wrestled his assault rifle away from him.
Prosecutors dropped their case Wednesday just before noon after the presentation emotional statements from witnesses and first responders. Several police officers broke down in tears and said the crime scene was the worst they had ever encountered.
In order to prove Reinking not guilty by reason of insanity, the defense must convince the jury not only that Reinking suffered from a serious mental illness, but also that his mental illness left him unable to recognize the wrongness of his actions.
In hopes of proving that Reinking knew what he was doing, prosecutors presented several witnesses who spoke about Reinking’s behavior after his arrest.
“He was calm, quiet, relatively normal from what I saw. He did everything that was asked of him,” Sumerel testified Wednesday, echoing testimony from other officials.
Prosecutors also presented evidence that although Reinking ran naked from the scene when he was arrested nearly two days later, he was clothed and carrying a backpack containing water bottles, sunscreen, a pistol and ammunition, a Bible and several silver bars.
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