KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) — Jamaican police said Monday they are trying to determine the motive in the weekend slayings of two American missionaries in the north coast area where they lived and worked.
A team of officers is interviewing residents of St. Mary parish in northern Jamaica where the bodies of Randy Hentzel, 48, and Harold Nichols, 53, were found in bushes along a rural road where they were traveling on motorbikes.
There were no suspects two days after the first slain missionary was found. Jamaica’s police force, which has long struggled to solve the great majority of the island’s homicides, has given only the broadest outline of the case and won’t say what condition the bodies were in.
“I can tell you we’re working assiduously to bring resolution to this matter. But the motive is still very unclear,” said Assistant Police Commissioner Ealan Powell, who leads the force’s criminal investigation branch.
Randy Hentzel was from Donnellson, Iowa, and had five children with his wife, Sara. Harold Nichols hailed from Randolph, New York, and is survived by his wife, Teri.
The men and their wives worked for a Pennsylvania-based religious organization called Teams for Medical Missions that has been in Jamaica since 1990. They did evangelism and Bible ministry, built homes and provided health care.
They were apparently killed Saturday on their way to check on the foundation of a home they were building for a needy family. One of the men was found with his hands bound.
Ray Shive, a former director of Teams for Medical Missions who knew both men well, described them as “quintessential missionaries” with tremendous energy ministering to people in the Caribbean country that they loved. Nichols did evangelical work in Jamaica for some 12 years, while Hentzel was there for six.
“They had absolute commitment to their work, great faithfulness and earned the respect and love of those in the community. I really could not say enough good about them,” Shive told The Associated Press.
He said the men and their families never received any threats that he knew of.
Bill Brooks, a childhood friend of Nichols who runs an advertising agency in New York, said he was shocked by the news. He had recently helped organize a rare vacation for the Nichols.
“Unlike a lot of us who spend their lives making money, Harold gave his whole life to helping people,” Brooks said in a phone call from Manhattan.
U.S. Embassy public affairs counselor Joshua Polacheck said staff were in touch with the victims’ families and the ambassador has “contacted the highest levels of the Jamaican security establishment.”
Jamaica has long struggled with high rates of violent crime. The island of less than 3 million people had at least 1,192 slayings in 2015, a roughly 20 percent increase from the previous year but less than the record 1,683 people killed in 2009.