Six days before he was to be sentenced for a brutal 2018 motel slaying, a Roanoke man and his attorney have parted ways and the case has been delayed until next year.
Timothy Mwandi Church, 28, was convicted at a bench trial in September on charges of first-degree murder, two types of malicious wounding and three counts of attempted robbery. He faces the prospect of up to two life sentences plus 50 years in prison.
Church’s sentencing had been set for Dec. 9 in Roanoke Circuit Court, but now a new date will be determined at January’s docket call.
On Tuesday, Church’s trial lawyer, Dirk Padgett, cited “a breakdown in the attorney-client relationship” and said Church had recently voiced disagreements with his strategies for both the trial and the sentencing.
“There are differences between counsel and client that render it impossible to represent Defendant Timothy Mwandi Church,” Padgett wrote in his motion to withdraw.
Padgett, who began representing Church in October 2018, was the second attorney hired in the case. On Tuesday, Church told a judge he has no money to retain a third, so Roanoke lawyer Patrick Kenney was appointed to represent him.
Church was charged with a brutal attack that occurred Jan. 23, 2018, at the Starlite Motel on Melrose Avenue. He was found guilty of using a baseball bat to fatally strike the manager, Ishvarlal Kuvarji Patel, and to injure Patel’s wife and daughter.
It’s still not clear what sparked the attack, but trial testimony suggested Church had wrecked a car near the Starlite that night, then approached Ishvarlal Patel — whom he knew and owed money to — and asked him for $20. When that request was refused, Church apparently forced his way into the family’s quarters and a fight began.
Much of the sound of the conflict was captured on a 911 recording, and Church was arrested as he ran from the scene.
Padgett positioned it as a case of self-defense, arguing that the bat belonged to the Patels and that the family assaulted Church first.
The case has seen repeated delays over the past two years as Church’s competency was evaluated. His initial lawyer attempted to pursue an insanity defense, but that was later withdrawn.