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Mormon missionaries robbed in Russia

Published: Sunday, Feb. 16 2014 9:45 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — Russian police are looking for a man who robbed two Mormon missionaries at knife point on Saturday, threatened to kill them and forced them to withdraw money from an ATM before letting them go.

"Elder Jeffrey Alan Owen of Coppell, Texas, and Elder Kamron Hunter Call of Moab, Utah, both serving in the Russia Samara Mission, were robbed by a man they had met for a teaching appointment in Engels, Russia," Cody Craynor, spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said Sunday. "The man forcibly drove them to an ATM and demanded they withdraw cash and then let them go. The missionaries were not harmed during the incident and are safe."

Call's family learned about the incident Saturday night from their stake president, according to the missionary's father, Russ Call. The missionary spoke with his family by telephone Sunday morning.

"He felt he was protected by the Lord and that the incident turned out as well as it could have," Russ Call said. "The missionaries aren't nervous about being there. They're ready to go back to work once the police find this guy."

The suspect was known to the missionaries, Russ Call said. The man, about 22 years old, had called them and invited the missionaries to bring a copy of the Book of Mormon to his apartment, where he was waiting with his 21-year-old wife or girlfriend. After they arrived, Owen and Call taught the man and woman for about 20 minutes. Owen told his mother Leslie in a phone call Sunday morning that after the missionaries told the couple they had to get to another appointment, the man jumped up and started cursing and ransacking their bags.

"He locked and barred the door and told them he was going to kill them both," Leslie Owen told the Deseret News.

The man took their money, phones and cameras, and the woman used her phone to look up the value of the missionaries' cameras, bags and phones. She also called friends and asked them to come over to the apartment and help them kill the missionaries, according to Leslie Owen and a Facebook item posted Sunday by Mike Call, Kamron Call's brother.

The friends refused. Russ Call said the missionaries believe the man had a mental breakdown or was high on drugs.

The man forced the missionaries to walk to an ATM and withdraw money for him. As is normal for LDS missionaries, "they had hardly any money available, for good reason," Russ Call said.

"I think it was about 3,000 rubles," he said, or about $85.

The man then gave the missionaries back their phones and about 100 rubles (less than $3) for bus or cab fare. The three men walked toward a cab. Owen felt impressed to keep walking, Russ Call said, and the man got into the cab while the missionaries walked away.

Owen and Call are not missionary companions. (LDS missionaries serve in pairs.) Owen, who has served as a missionary for 20 months, had returned to Engels for the day to attend a baptism of someone he had taught. He was on a "split," or missionary exchange, with Call. Meanwhile, Call's regular companion, Elder Kevin Boyer of Arizona, and Owen's companion, Elder Harrison, apparently had teamed up for the day.

After leaving the man, Owen and Call were late for the baptism and continued straight there, where they told their mission president what happened. The president took them to police.

"The police were very concerned about taking care of the missionaries and very thorough," Russ Call said. "They seemed to know the man."

Kamron Call's mother, Kimberly, was in Arizona visiting parents when the family learned of the incident. She spent a sleepless night, Russ Call said, until their son could call Sunday morning, though she knew he was safe.

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