SAN DIEGO -- A Navy veteran accused of holding a gun to her baby's head and threatening to blow up a Clairemont church during its Easter service pleaded not guilty Wednesday to eight felonies and one misdemeanor count.
Anna Conkey, 31, was charged with three counts of making criminal threats, one count of attempting to make a threat, child abuse, interfering with an officer, possessing a gun in a school zone, making a false bomb report and misdemeanor interfering with a religious service.
Her semi-automatic pistol was not loaded, but police found ammunition at her home later, Deputy District Attorney Matthew Greco said.
He said Conkey, who spent six years as a Navy mass communication specialist before attending San Diego State University, faces more than 23 years in state prison if convicted of all charges.
Her husband, Zach Conkey, currently serves in the Navy and is on deployment on the East Coast.
After leaving the Navy, Conkey went on to work as a freelance journalist, a blogger and former NBC 7 news employee who has had commentaries published in the San Diego Union-Tribune.
San Diego Superior Court Judge Joseph Brannigan set Conkey's bail at $1 million and issued protective orders to keep her away from the church, its pastor and her two children, at Greco's request.
The prosecutor said Conkey's children, including a 5-year-old daughter, were taken into protective custody, but now are with family. Their father has been very involved with them, Greco said.
"It's clear that mental issues will play a role in this case," the prosecutor said out of court, noting that it will be up to her attorney whether to request a mental competency hearing or possibly plead insanity as a defense.
San Diego police said that shortly before noon on Sunday, Conkey walked onto the stage of Church TsidKenu, which holds services at Mt. Everest Academy, and waved around a gun with one hand while holding her 10-month-old baby with the other hand.
Greco said Conkey, who has attended the non-denominational church, told the congregants "they were all going to die" and threatened to blow up the building. She is alleged to have aimed the gun at her child's head and at the congregation. While the church's founding pastor, Brother Ben Wisan, got most of the 100 congregants out of the building, several stayed behind and tried to talk to Conkey, Wisan said in an interview.
They ended up tackling and disarming her, and taking away her baby, shortly before officers got there.
The church members released her and gave the pistol to an officer, but Conkey lunged at him to get the gun away, Greco said. She was subdued after a short scuffle.
The church name is taken from the Old Testament as a name for God, Jehovah tsidkenu, or "Lord of righteousness," according to several online Bible dictionaries.
He said that right before the incident, Conkey sent a written statement involving the church to "a former employer" and called 911 to report that a woman with a bomb was at the Clairemont school grounds. There was no bomb at the academy, or at Conkey's home or vehicle, the prosecutor said.
David Miller, a Navy man, said he was one of several people who stayed in the church to try defusing the situation safely. Miller told OnScene TV the woman was making "crazy comments" about teaching people how to suffer and that there was a need for people to become martyrs.
Greco said the criminal threats charges against Conkey involve the pastor and two unnamed church victims. The attempted threat involved members of the congregation who may not have clearly heard her death threats.
--Stars and Stripes contributed to this report.
This article is written by Pauline Repard from The San Diego Union-Tribune and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.