JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) — Robert Findlay Smith, 71, pleaded guilty Tuesday in court to shooting and killing three people at a potluck at Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church last summer.

Tuesday, Smith accepted a plea deal from the state, waiving his right to a trial and appeal, agreeing to serve life without parole. Smith’s lawyers say because of his age, he’ll never see the outside world again.

District Attorney Danny Carr says because Smith intentionally murdered three people, the only sentencing options were life in prison without parole or the death penalty.

“This type of senseless murder of three innocent people is certainly a case our office would typically try in front of a jury and seek the death penalty,” said Carr in a statement. “However, that was not the wish of the three families in this case.”

Smith’s lawyers would not say why he shot three people at the potluck. Smith’s lawyers addressed the three victims’ families for him in court, saying he was sorry and asking for forgiveness.

“When he came out, he saw the large crowd, he became nervous and I asked him did he want to speak and he asked us to say something on his behalf,” says Emory Anthony, one of Smith’s attorneys. “It’s no doubt. I believe he’s remorseful.”

“The families wanted closure as well because you have to remember, every time they go to court, the family has to relive this,” says attorney Eric Guster.

Linda Rainey, the widow of victim Walter Rainey, addressed the court and Smith at the hearing. She says she relives that day of senseless, evil murder over and over again and believes if it were not for the man who took the gun from Smith, more people would have died. Rainey says the legacy left behind by the three people killed that day is one of love and kindness.

“Church should be the place of solitude, the place of safety,” says Guster. “For a person to go in and murder people in a church, in our hometown, it’s really, really tough to grasp.”

Guster says plea deals are common as oftentimes defendants and families of victims don’t want to go through a trial. Smith’s lawyers believe the plea deal was good for everyone involved.

“They did not just talk about being Christians, they acted as Christians and were willing to forgive him,” says Anthony. “I know it’s hurtful to each one of the family members, but we say thanks to each one of them for taking that attitude.”

Saint Stephen’s says the unthinkable act of gun violence changed the church forever but says it will be putting energy into modeling God’s love and being a place for healing and resurrection.

“As difficult as it is, we pray that God’s redeeming love may reach Mr. Smith as he lives with the consequences of his actions for the rest of his life,” says Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church in a statement.

Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church says a concrete foundation has been laid where a labyrinth will be built as a place for healing. The church invites people to come out this Sunday to write messages of love and hope on the foundation.