Jury sentences man to 40 years for robbing pastor inside church
A local felon who robbed a pastor inside his church last year, forcibly taking a firearm from him, was sentenced to 40 years in prison Thursday after a twoday jury trial in Garland County Circuit Court.
Todd Jacob Menard, 30, who has remained in custody since his arrest on June 29, was sentenced to 25 years for robbery, five years for theft of a firearm and 10 years for possession of a firearm by certain persons with the sentences to run consecutively for a total of 40 years.
The jury deliberated for less than an hour before finding Menard guilty of the robbery and theft charges after one day of testimony Wednesday and then deliberated for 15 minutes before finding him guilty on the possession charge, which was presented separately, Deputy Prosecutor Brock Price, who prosecuted the case along with Deputy Prosecutor Caitlin Bornhoft, told The Sentinel-Record Thursday.
The possession charge stems from Menard’s previous conviction on Jan. 31, 2022, of second-degree battery for stabbing a stranger in the parking lot of Walmart in 2020 where he was sentenced to six years in prison, with all of it suspended, because as a felon he is not allowed to own or possess a firearm.
He is also classified as a habitual offender, because he was previously convicted on Aug. 19, 2013, in Vermilion Parish, La., of three counts of simple burglary and sentenced to five years hard labor in prison.
“He’s a dangerous guy,” Price said, noting Menard was actually “kind of going to the church” and “knew the pastor well” where the robbery occurred at Eastside Baptist Church, 101 Tennessee St.
Menard was “sort of homeless” at the time and would come to the church “to eat and take a shower” and the pastor even gave him clothing and “tried to help him out,” Price said.
According to the probable cause affidavit, at around 9:45
p.m. on June 19, the pastor reports he was inside the church’s sanctuary and was carrying a firearm in his right front pocket.
“It was an open carry situation,” Price said, noting the pastor had the gun in a holster. Menard came into the church asking for help and they were standing in the sanctuary “between the pulpit and first row of pews” when Menard “put his hand on the pastor’s chest and pushed him, grabbing the handle of the gun and pulling it out, holster and all.”
Menard then took the gun and the soft clip-style holster and fled out the back door, the affidavit said. The handgun, valued at $300, was described as a black Bersa Thunder .380 caliber that was fully loaded. The holster was later located on the property along the direction Menard had fled.
Price noted Hot Springs police couldn’t find Menard after searching initially after the incident, but a warrant was issued and he was arrested 10 days later. His suspended sentence on the stabbing incident was revoked on Dec. 20 as a result of the new arrest and he was sentenced to three years in prison.
When asked about the gun, which was never recovered, Menard said he was riding in a car with some people and police got behind them and “he got scared and threw it out the car window near downtown somewhere where anybody could have found it,” Price said.
“I think the jury took that into consideration, too,” he said, noting they deliberated for about an hour and 15 minutes before recommending the various sentences on the charges.
Price said the previous stabbing incident was brought up during sentencing and Menard claimed it was in self-defense.
According to the affidavit on the stabbing, which occurred on Dec. 19, 2020, around 11 p.m., a local man was sitting in his vehicle in the parking lot of Walmart, 4019 Central Ave., when a black 2018 Nissan Rogue pulled alongside his car.
The driver of the Rogue, later identified as Menard, rolled his window down and appeared to be trying to communicate with the man who stated he stepped out of his vehicle and began walking toward the store. Menard then jumped out and stabbed the man several times with a box knife, causing lacerations to his face, left ear and back.
The man pulled out a concealed handgun he was carrying and pointed it at Menard who fled into the store. He approached a store employee and told him, “I done something very wrong. I need help,” and then fled out the emergency exit.
Police located him in the 3300 block of Central and took him into custody. When questioned by detectives, he denied any knowledge of a stabbing and said he was “walking and drinking” prior to his contact with the officers.
He initially stated he had walked from Golf Links Road and then stated he was walking from Cornerstone Boulevard. He refused to provide any specific locations he had been to that evening or say who he was with.