Two U.S. missionaries working to build homes for the impoverished in Jamaica were beaten to death in a rural area of the country Saturday. According to the Jamaica Constabulary Force, the men’s battered bodies were found in bushes in separate areas of St. Mary Parish.
Killed were Harold Nichols, 53, originally from Salamanca, and fellow missionary, Randy Hentzel, 43, of Donnellson, Iowa.
The two men were working for a faith-based mission out of Allentown, Pa., called TEAMS for Medical Missions.
The motive is unclear, according to TEAMS for Medical Missions, which posted the news on its Facebook site Sunday.
“These men greatly loved the people of Jamaica and were greatly loved in return. TEAMS for Medical Missions remains committed to serving the people of Jamaica and demonstrating the unconditional love of Christ,” the statement said.
Nichols, a former counselor at the Randolph Children’s Home, and his wife, Teri, who was in Jamaica with him, were called to the missionary life more than a decade ago after they traveled to Haiti and witnessed the great poverty in the country, said his sister Shirley Stewart Ingersoll.
She said that the couple had been living in Jamaica for at least 10 years but that they had gotten together at her home in Hamburg just a few months ago when he came back to the United States to be checked for a minor heart condition.
Ingersoll said Monday that the family was still in a state of shock and has been in regular contact with Teri Nichols.
“She told me on the phone, ‘Shirley, don’t go there,’ ” Ingersoll said of the anger over the senseless and brutal slaying.
“Don’t let anything be robbed of the joy and love of my brother and her husband. We are very proud of him. I know he is absent from his body, but he is present with the Lord.”
Nichols was serving as a building coordinator in Jamaica. In addition to building homes, the two men also did evangelism and Bible ministry.
Hentzel’s daughter Amy Larson, 29, told the Des Moines Register that her father and Nichols were traveling on motorcycles to a mountain village outside St. Mary Parish to check out a building site for a home for a family in need.
Jamaica had at least 1,192 slayings in 2015, a roughly 20 percent increase from the previous year, according to statistics from the Jamaica Constabulary Force.
With 45 slayings per 100,000 people in 2015, it is ranked among the most violent countries in the world. In recent years, the United Nations listed the island as having the world’s sixth-worst homicide rate.
The Jamaica Observer reported that lottery scam rings that clash over “lead lists” with identity information about targets living abroad – mostly from the United States – as well as fighting between gangs have been blamed for the majority of Jamaica’s homicides.
Ingersoll said her youngest brother knew of the violence, but “he had no fear.”
Her brother and his wife have no children, except, she said, for the hundreds of Jamaican children who loved them.
“Love was put in his heart to look after these Jamaican people and to be there with TEAMS for Medical Missions,” Ingersoll said. “He just loved them.”
Ingersoll said that at this point, it was unclear whether the body would be brought back to the United States. The investigation is continuing, she said.