Rev. John David Terry murdered and beheaded friend to fake own death

This week Grave Secrets examines the case of Rev. John David Terry, a pastor who took a very dark path indeed.

Nashville, June 16, 1987, and the 44-year-old pastor is found dead after a fire at the church where he preached but the investigation soon reveals something is amiss.

Terry’s path to crime partly stemmed from his feeling of having failed in life, a feeling he claimed became stronger after his mother died in 1983. He then hatched a plan to fake his own death and befriended 32-year-old down on his luck father of one James C. Matheny. He wanted to fake a robbery that would result in his heroic death and claimed that his plan was to include Matheny in the plot.

However, the detectives believe that he lured Matheny to the church and then shot him in the back of the head. He then stripped his body and began removing identifiable body parts, which included his head and right forearm. The pastor then bought some gasoline and headed back tot he church where he wrapped the body in a carpet and set the building on fire. He also sliced off Matheny’s tattoos and flushed the flesh down the toilet before heading over to handyman’s house to plant clues that he had committed the murder and robbery, even going as far as using the severed arm to leave finger prints.

Luckily for the police the fire failed to burn the body and it soon became clear it was not Terry and detectives began searching for him. He eventually handed himself over to the authorities and in 1988 he was sentenced to die by electric chair. He won a retrial a little later but that jury also found him guilty and in 2003 he hung himself in a prison bathroom.

Grave Secrets airs on Tuesdays at 9:00 PM on Investigation Discovery.

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