12:58 PM
The man accused of shooting three people to death during church services at a small southwest Missouri church has entered into a plea deal with prosecutors.

Eiken Elam Saimon's death penalty trial was to begin in June, but he pleaded guilty today (03-20-09) to three counts of first-degree murder and four counts of first-degree assault for the Aug. 12, 2007, ambush at the First Congregational Church in Neosho.

Three church leaders were killed and four parishioners were wounded before Saimon took the rest of the congregation hostage.

Saimon addressed the court briefly and described how shame from an incident at a community barbecue led him to kill.

"I did not have any food to bring to the barbecue and my relatives started giving me a hard time ... and saying that I was stealing food for my children," Saimon said. "I went home and thought about how they were all talking bad about me and how much I had helped all of them when they first came to the United States."

"I knew they would all be at church on Sunday afternoon," he added. "I was still really mad, but I knew what I was doing."

One of the men killed, Kernel Rohobson, was Saimon's second cousin.

In the deal, Saimon also pleaded guilty to charges of statutory rape and statutory sodomy for sexually assaulting his 14-year-old family friend two days before the church shootings.

Saimon will spend the rest of his life behind bars. He received three consecutive life sentences without parole, plus four 30-year sentences for the assaults and two seven-year sentences for the sex offenses.