Dylann Roof had researched many black churches in South Carolina, though he had been making repeated visits to the Emanuel AME church for six months.
The trial of Dylann Roof wages on, albeit in slightly less dramatic fashion than when it began last week, when heart-rending testimonies were offered by the family members of some of the nine victims who were shot and killed by Roof during a racially motivated attack on an African American church in Charleston, SC on June 17, 2015. The prosecutor's initial depiction of the massacre caused Roof's mother to have a heart attack. After breaking for the weekend, the trial picked up again on Monday (Dec. 12), when investigators revealed that they had found a list of black churches in the Charleston area in Roof's car.
In addition to Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the site of the shooting, Roof had written a list of black churches that included Morris Brown AME, Calvary Episcopal, Central Baptist, Ebenezer AME, as well as a church whose name was illegible due to water damage. Written lists of cities and towns in SC, and the racial makeup of each of these places, were also found in the car.
Though he appears to have researched a wide array of black churches, it seems that Emanuel had long been decided as the target of his first attack. Tuesday's proceedings revealed that Roof had been driving to and from Emanuel, making the 90-minute trip from his hometown of Columbia, for six months leading up to the attack.
Data taken from the GPS device in Roof's car shows that he had been taking regular trips in South Carolina that seem to have strengthened his racist ideologies. He would visit former slave plantations and sites associated with racial struggle, often documenting his travels on his website and outlining his racist viewpoints in the process.
According to testimony from FBI agent Joseph Hamski, Roof had visited Emanuel on six different occasions, and twice on two of those days. He first visited the church on Dec. 22, 2014, and followed with visits on Feb. 23, Feb. 27, April 25, and May 9.
GPS data also helped put together a timeline of the night of the shooting. Roof arrived in Charleston at 7:48 PM, parked at Emanuel at 8:15 PM, and entered the church a minute later. He left the church, with the murder weapon in hand, at 9:06 PM. He was eventually tracked down and apprehended in Shelby, NC early the next morning.
The closing arguments are set to take place tomorrow, upon which the jury will decide on Roof's guilt on 33 counts of murder, attempted murder, and committing a hate crime. After the conviction, the penalty phase of the trial -- when jurors will decide between a punishment of life in prison or death -- will commence on Jan. 3. For the penalty portion of the trial, Roof has elected to represent himself.