Slaying of elder not linked to hate, religion, police say

Deseert Morning News/January 4, 2005
By Joseph M. Dougherty and Amelia Nielson-Stowell

Police on Tuesday were trying to determine whether two LDS Church missionaries were shot Monday because they had witnessed another crime.

A police spokeswoman in Virginia said the men were not victims of a hate crime, nor were they attacked because of their religion.

Elder Morgan Winslow Young, 21, of Bountiful, died from his wounds Monday evening. Elder Joshua Heidbrink, 19, of Greeley, Colo., remained hospitalized Tuesday.

Police say the men were proselyting door-to-door, walking along a road without sidewalks, just after 6 p.m. Monday when a man approached, shot them and ran away. A suspect has not been named and no one is in custody.

An uncle of Heidbrink told KSL-TV that the two missionaries saw a shooting and were attacked because of what they had witnessed. Police say they are looking into that possibility.

Meanwhile, Young was remembered by family and friends in Utah and Virginia as a vibrant, good-natured young man who loved his church and the people of Virginia.

The missionaries were shot in the 2600 block of Elkhart Street in the Deep Creek area of Chesapeake, Va., which is part of the church's Richmond Virginia mission.

The Deep Creek area is "actually a nice neighborhood," said Eric James Martin, a Virginia Beach resident who was taught the LDS Church missionary lessons by Young.

"It's not known for crime," Martin said. "It's an uppity area."

Deep Creek is on the eastern shore of Virginia and is a popular spot for lake vacations. Its population estimate for 2006 is more than 39,000, the average income is almost $53,000, and 60 percent of the residents are married, most with children. Chesapeake, where the population is roughly 210,000, had five homicides in 2003.

While nearly all of the male missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints give two years of their lives to preaching and living a strict code of conduct, Morgan Young had given his whole life, his grandfather, Winslow Young of Centerville, said. Young was two months short of completing his two-year church service when he was killed.

"He was doing what he should have been doing," his grandfather said. "He knew he wanted to go on a mission early on."

The LDS Church released a statement Tuesday expressing condolences to the Young family.

"We pray that they will find peace and comfort in the promises of the Lord concerning those who give their lives in his service," the statement says. "We assure those currently serving missions or who are contemplating missionary service that the church will continue to make every effort to safeguard the health and safety of missionaries throughout the world.

"Morgan Young was the oldest of Mark and Kathy Young's four children. The Bountiful High School graduate and Eagle Scout studied briefly at Weber State University before leaving for a mission in March 2004.

He planned to study computer science at Brigham Young University upon his return.

Winslow Young showed members of the news media a family portrait in which Morgan Young is sticking up two fingers in bunny-ears fashion behind the head of his younger brother, Brennan. That was true Morgan, Winslow Young said — someone who liked to joke and have fun.

"He was such a vibrant, good young man," Winslow Young said. "He loved the mission. He loved the people of Virginia."

The rest of the Young family was emotionally distraught as they packed for an emergency trip to Virginia, Winslow Young said. A local church leader drove them to the airport, where they boarded a flight to Virginia. They arrived an hour after Morgan Young died from organ failure.

Morgan Young wasn't one of the athletes in the large group of young men his age in the family's LDS ward, said Bob Stringham, a ward member who has a son Morgan's age.

But to earn a Boy Scout merit badge, Morgan joined a Junior Jazz team Stringham coached, and though he didn't look the part of a basketball player, he had a good attitude about playing.

"This is the worst of all nightmares," Stringham said. "I'm brokenhearted."

Stringham watched Morgan grow up from a 12-year-old boy to a quiet and good-natured young man who loved computers. Before his mission, Morgan worked at Pace's Dairy Ann and was loved by his co-workers, Stringham said.

"We've always been proud of what he's done," Stringham said. "He got called in a different direction, I guess."

"He was the savior in my eyes," said Martin, a petty officer first class in the Navy. "Elder Young was instrumental in my rebaptism. . . . I was one of the fortunate few that got to hear Elder Young's preaching."

Martin described Morgan Young as a father figure — a kind, genuine man who was always willing to answer questions about teachings of the LDS Church. Young frequently came to the Martin household for dinners with Eric, his wife and 3-year-old son.

"He called me Brother Martin before I got baptized," Martin said. "He looked at me as one of God's children. He never turned his shoulder on me. He was very compassionate and loving towards me."

Martin said he was shocked when he heard of Young's death because the missionary was extremely cautious and was always attentive to the safety of himself and others.

"He completed his mission for his church and his mission for life," Martin said.

Winslow Young said he doesn't known when Morgan's body will be released from the medical examiner in Virginia, but he said a funeral is likely to be scheduled early next week.

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