Manhunt continues for church shooter

November 24, 2008 10:02:25 PM PST
he father of the man accused of killing two people, including his 24-year-old wife, as they worshipped at a New Jersey church Sunday called upon his son to surrender. Authorities say 27-year-old Joseph Pallipurath opened fire in the vestibule of the St. Thomas Syrian Orthodox Knanaya Church in Passaic, fatally wounding his wife, identified as 24-year-old Reshma James, and shooting the other two.

Pallipurath then fled in a Jeep, police said.

James was rushed to St. Joseph's Medical Center in Paterson, where she was pronounced dead around 4 p.m.

James' 47-year-old cousin, Silvy Perincheril, is listed in extremely critical condition at St. Joseph's, while 25-year-old Dennis John, who police say was trying to calm tensions at the scene, died later Sunday night. All three were shot in the head, according to police.

Authorities say about 200 people were inside the church at the time of the shooting. Witnesses say Pallipurath escaped in a 2004 green Jeep with California license plate No. 5HJ-D200. He was reportedly carrying a silver handgun and is considered dangerous.

Police say the couple had a tumultuous and abusive relationship dating back to when they lived in India. They then moved to California, where authorities say James left him to live with a relative in New Jersey. There, she filed a restraining order against Pallipurath, who authorities say drove from Sacramento to New Jersey prior to the murder.

Authorities say Pallipurath called his wife on her cell phone at church and asked to speak with her in the vestibule. Her cousin came with her, and an argument ensued. John reportedly tried to calm both sides down before the shooting occurred.

On Tuesday, Pallipurath's father called upon his son to surrender.

Mathai Pallipurath told The Associated Press Monday he doesn't know his son's whereabouts and hasn't had any contact with him. But he urged his son to surrender, and asked his son's friends to do the same if they hear from him.

Mathai Pallipurath said he had not seen his daughter-in-law since the family made a trip to India in September. She stayed behind in the southern state of Kerala when he and his son returned to the United States. They had sent her a plane ticket to return in early October, but she didn't come back and they had not heard fromher.

Pallipurath said he did not know his daughter-in-law had returned to the U.S. and didn't know his son, who lives in an apartment in Sacramento, had tracked her down in New Jersey until he learned about Sunday's church shooting.

"She was not here. She was in India. And I did not know she came to New Jersey," he said.

Pallipurath said he thought his son and daughter-in-law were happy together, and described his son as "handsome" and "a nice guy."

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