Retired Pastor Has No Judgment Call in Murder Case

Amanda Hamm, the mother accused of drowning her three children, is scheduled for sentencing on Feb. 1 following her conviction in December of child endangerment.

The latest charge last month comes two years after Hamm had originally been charged with nine counts of first-degree murder and a possible death penalty.

Since then, Hamm has served time at DeWitt County Jail during which the Rev. C. Don Ferrill has paid visits every Wednesday afternoon.

"We do not discuss the case, but we have gone through tears and moments of anxiousness together," said Ferrill, according to the United Methodist News Service. "I really don't have a judgment call on the case. My role was a ministry of presence."

Hamm and her boyfriend, Maurice LaGrone, Jr., were accused of placing their three children - Christopher Hamm, 6, Austin Brown, 3 and Kyleigh Hamm, 23 months - in a car that sank more than four feet into Clinton Lake in Illinois in September 2003. Hamm had called 911 to say her children were in the water. She and LaGrone said it was an accident, explaining that the car rolled into the water while they were able to escape.

While LaGrone faces life in prison and a possible appeal, Hamm was convicted on Dec. 12, 2006 of the lesser charge of child endangerment by a Macon County jury. The panel rejected the nine counts of first-degree murder she had been convicted with and a Feb. 1 sentence hearing is scheduled for Hamm. She now faces up to 20 years in prison.

Betty March, LaGrone's stepmother, says it was an accident and believes LaGrone should have been charged with child endangerment and Hamm should have been "set free."

Meanwhile, Ferrill, who was pastor of Clinton United Methodist Church and served as interim pastor of a Presbyterian church in Clinton, was asked by Hamm to visit her in jail over the past two years.

"The Baptists used to have worship services at the jail but had discontinued them," Hamm told Ferrill, according to UMNS. Thus, she asked Ferrill to visit regularly.

Ferrill has been listening to Hamm's story and praying with her every week since then.

"I believe in second chances; otherwise, none of us would make it," he said.

While the local community continues to express anger and frustration over the loss of the three children, according to Ferrill, the pastor has chosen to "stand in the gap" on the issue, not taking sides.

"Sometimes as Christians and the church we drop the ball on the wounded," he said. "I think Jesus could have been responsive and have compassion. Sometimes it's just a matter of standing in the gap when something as divisive as this occurs."