A man accused of stabbing a relative during Sunday school this weekend hadn’t been taking his medicine for schizophrenia, his sister said Monday.
Billy Lewis, 65, of Wedgefield is charged with attempted murder after deputies say he stabbed a man sitting in front of him at St. Paul AME Church Shaw.
Edith Lewis, the suspect’s sister, said Lewis didn’t know what he was doing at the time. “I think he probably wasn’t taking his medicine and that’s what caused it,” she said.
Billy Lewis and the unidentified victim are cousins by marriage, she said.
Sumter County law enforcement officials agree Billy Lewis has mental health issues but did nothing violent previously.
The National Institute for Mental Health defines schizophrenia as “a chronic and severe mental disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels and behaves. People with schizophrenia may seem like they have lost touch with reality. Although schizophrenia is not as common as other mental disorders, the symptoms can be very disabling.”
The organization lists some of the symptoms of schizophrenia as hallucinations, delusions, unusual or dysfunctional ways of thinking and inability to understand information and use it to make decisions.
I just want him to come home.”
Samuel Howard, son of Billy Lewis
Both men are longtime faithful members of the church, according to Rev. Eric Dent. The pastor said such conduct is unusual in the close-knit community. “It is my thought that we need to set up some grief counseling for the ones that were directly involved,” Dent said.
The pastor’s wife, a nurse, stepped in and applied first aid to the victim, Dent said. She kept him stable until emergency medical help arrived and the victim was airlifted to Palmetto Health Richland.
Lewis stabbed the victim because he thought the man put a curse on him, according to Ken Bell, spokesman for the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office. He stabbed the victim in the back of the head, the back of the neck and the left shoulder, Bell said. The weapon was a pocket knife, with a blade of no more than 4 inches, the spokesman said.
“The way I understand it, there were three stab wounds, and the one that went to the back of the head broke the knife blade off,” Bell said.
Lewis remained in the county jail after no bond on the charge of attempted murder was set Monday. Deputies expect a court-ordered mental evaluation, Bell said.
Meanwhile, Lewis is banned from the church but his family still plans to attend services. “I’ve been there all my life,” Edith Lewis said.
This aggressive behavior is out of character for Billy Lewis, his sister and son Samuel Howard said. His son described Lewis as a good father. “I’m kind of lost for words right now,” Howard said. “I just want him to come home.”