A story by Russian police that a kidnapper of two LDS missionaries had once been a Latter-day Saint is puzzling to the church - and to one of the missionaries.
Russia police in the Volga River city of Saratov on Tuesday described a Russian arrested in connection with the kidnaping as an "up-and-coming businessman," born in 1954, who helped organize a branch of the LDS Church in the Russian city of Saratov in 1993 but later quit the church.Elder Andrew Lee Propst, 20, talked to his family briefly on Friday and said he and the missionary kidnapped with him, Elder Travis Robert Tuttle, 20, recognized the man but did not believe he had ever been a member of their church.
The story of a disaffected church member kidnapping two American missionaries for financial gain has puzzled church officials as well. The church keeps records of its membership but does not know the name of the arrested man and therefore can neither verify nor debunk the story, church spokesman Don LeFevre said Saturday night.
Both missionaries have been temporarily relocated in Frankfurt until the church decides where to reassign them for the remainder of their two-year assignments. Speaking to their parents by phone Friday, Elder Tuttle, of Gilbert, Ariz., said he had seen a younger man involved in the kidnapping at church the Sunday before the pair were abducted March 18; but the brief phone conversation didn't include a discussion about the identity of the older man. Police are still seeking that younger man.
Propst, of Lebanon, Ore., told his parents Friday he didn't believe the story about the older man having once been a church member.
Both missionaries still know very little about the attention the kidnapping attracted in the United States, their fathers said; and the families say they are still waiting to learn the details of the abduction and the missionaries' safe release four days later.
Russian police said a $300,000 ransom demand went unpaid when the kidnappers, sensing trouble, drove the blindfolded missionaries out of town and dropped them off the morning of Sunday, March 22. Police said they arrested the man they described as a former church member that evening.