Report: Ex-Mormon Kidnapped Mormons
Mar. 24, 1998
MOSCOW (AP) _ The kidnapping of two Mormon missionaries in southern Russia was plotted by a former member of the Mormon community, a Russian news agency reported Tuesday.
Andrew Lee Propst, 20, of Lebanon, Ore., and Travis Robert Tuttle, 20, of Gilbert, Ariz., were freed Sunday after being held for five days in Saratov, 450 miles southeast of Moscow.
Two suspects _ a man and a woman _ were arrested Sunday and Monday and have confessed to taking part in the kidnapping, Russian officials said. A third suspect remains at large.
Federal Security Service officials Vladimir Terentyev and Sergei Boldyrev said the man arrested Sunday was a 44-year-old businessman who co-founded a branch of the Mormon church in Saratov in 1993 and then quit the church, the Interfax news agency reported. The suspect's name was not disclosed.
The suspect asked a friend to invite the missionaries to his apartment, where masked men hit them over the head with sticks, Interfax quoted the investigators as saying.
The missionaries were forced into a van and moved to an apartment. There, the abductors photographed them and drew up a $300,000 ransom note, Interfax said. The note included a threat that the two would be killed if police were contacted.
According to the investigators, the suspect was motivated by financial reasons, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported. After four days, the kidnappers freed the hostages without being paid.
After being questioned by police in Saratov, Propst and Tuttle went to Samara, site of the Mormons' regional headquarters, ITAR-Tass said. From there, they were to go to Frankfurt, Germany.
The church's European spokeswoman, Gabrielle Sirtl, said the two men will be reassigned to other Mormon Church missions.
There are about 500 Mormon missionaries in Russia, among 57,000 mostly young men the Utah-based church has deployed around the globe.