Convicted murderer causes $30K in damage during Sunday church service

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A little over a year ago, a Charlotte man was released from prison for murdering another man in 2004. Now, he's accused of rushing to the front of a southeast Charlotte church, interrupting Palm Sunday services, and causing $30,000 worth of damage.

Police arrested Robert Smothers at Central Church of God on Sardis Road Sunday.

Officials said Smothers served time in prison for second-degree murder and since his release, he has been arrested at least three other times this year.

Robert Smothers

(Robert Smothers)

The church's executive pastor told Channel 9 that Smothers visited the church with his family. At some point, police said he created a disturbance when he tried to steal equipment and damaged the church's audio system.

Officials said he rushed the stage.

The church's staff commended its security and police for responding quickly. They arrested Smothers, who did not have a weapon.

Church members said they were troubled by the incident.

Channel 9 covered Smothers violent past in 2004 when he was arrested and charged for murdering his boyfriend, Phillip Horton.

Police said Smothers murdered Horton at the home the two men shared with Smothers' mother in north Charlotte.

He pleaded guilty and spent 12 years in prison. Smothers has not been charged with a violent crime since then.

He worked at a Goodwill until January when a manager accused him of stealing, and fired him. He was also accused of stealing from a Walmart last month.

The church said it would not have banned Smothers from its services, but it has a strict protocol regarding the presence of registered offenders. The executive pastor described Smothers as a "troubled individual who wasn't trying to be malicious."

Smothers is facing charges including attempted larceny and disorderly conduct at a public building.