JW dead in shooting at Oregon state Kingdom Hall

by Nathan Natas 12 Replies latest watchtower scandals

  • Nathan Natas
    Nathan Natas

    source: http://kezi.com/news/local/173822

    LOWELL, Ore. -- A late-night shooting at a Kingdom Hall near Lowell leaves one man dead.

    The Eugene man accused of murdering his wife's ex-husband Wednesday night made his first court appearance Thursday. Robert Riley Gonzales allegedly opened fire at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witness.

    The first calls to police came in just after 9 p.m. Lane County Sheriff's Deputies at that point, were in Pleasant Hill responding to an armed robbery.

    Lane County Undersheriff Tom Turner says their proximity to the shooting might have kept things from getting worse and certainly helped them in tracking down the suspect.

    "Then they get this call of a hostage situation of five people being held at gunpoint," said Turner. "The suspect comes to the church, he used to go to the church, he's familiar with the church."

    Turner says five kingdom hall elders were leaving a planning session when Gonzales approached. Turner says Gonzales ordered the five people back inside. A conflict with the victim, Kenneth Mort, immediately ensued. "Then shoots them, then immediately leaves," said Turner.

    Turner says he took off in a vehicle, but only made it about three miles away, eventually getting stuck on a logging road. He says Gonzales took off on foot.

    Three hours later, shortly after midnight, they tracked the suspect down with the help of a police dog.

    Police say the dog's attack left Gonzales injured, so he was taken to McKenzie-Willamette Hospital before being taken to jail.

    He was arraigned in court Thursday afternoon and will be formally charged next Thursday before a grand jury.

    The undersheriff says there are still many questions surrounding Gonzales' motive because his criminal record is relatively clear.

    Turner says the only part that sticks out is a restraining order against Gonzales dating back eight years ago.

    Robert Gonzales actually goes by his middle name, Riley. Aside a citation for not wearing a seat belt 10 years ago, Gonzales' record was clear until Wednesday night.

    Gonzales is currently married to the victim's ex-wife. The Gonzales family says Riley was a Jehovah's Witness but left the faith.

    He's a husband, a step-father to two children and works as a heavy equipment operator in Eugene.

    Gonzales' younger brother spoke with the defendant just a couple of weeks ago and says everything seemed normal.

    Nathan Gonzales says Riley has never been a violent person. The entire family is shocked by the charges now being leveled against Gonzales.

    "I just hope he's ok. That he knows we are here for him. What can you do at this point? You just got to hurry up and wait. That's all you can do right now," said Nathan Gonzales.

    Nathan says despite this looming murder charge, family members are standing by their loved one.

    The Gonzales family was visibly distraught at the arraignment. Though they don't know the victim or his family personally, they did offer their condolences and say they are still trying to comprehend what happened Wednesday night.

    This is obviously a difficult time for the family of the victim, Kenneth Mort. His friends are also trying to comprehend what happened. Friends say the 48-year-old was a nice guy and an active member of their congregation at the Kingdom Hall.

    One neighbor shared a fence with Mort during his first marriage. Gonzales and Mort knew each other because Gonzales married Mort's ex-wife.

    Friends say they're still trying to cope with the reality that Mort is gone. They said he was a good guy, husband and friend.

    Kenneth Mort was also a prominent local businessman. He co-owned Eugene-based Hitch Pro and Tow on West 11th.

    There's shock and confusion among residents also, including the town's own mayor. A day later the small town with just over a thousand people is reacting to this fatal shooting.

    Many say when they saw dozens of police taping off the area it caught them by surprise.

    "I felt bad and scared for the people that had to see that because that shouldn't even happen," said Tracy Daughty, a Lowell Resident.

    Even the Mayor says he was caught off guard. "People don't have to worry about things like this and I don't think they do, this is an anomaly; it just doesn't happen in Lowell," said Lowell Mayor Warren Weathers.

    The mayor says residents can be proud of how their law enforcement handled the situation. Now it's time to move forward.

    The Lowell Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses issued a statement Thursday regarding the incident that reads in part, "Now more than ever that comfort is needed for those touched by this senseless tragedy. We lost a fine husband, father and friend. It is our hope that as a congregation we can provide the support and comfort to the immediate and extended family. Our Kingdom Hall has always been a place where people receive spiritual refreshment and it will continue to be so.

    We would like to thank the various emergency personnel including the Lane County Sheriff's department, the Oregon State Police and the Lowell fire department. During this incredibly difficult and tragic event, they treated us in a very kind and compassionate manner."

  • Nathan Natas
  • purplesofa

    Wow! It will be interesting to know the motive.

    Turner says five kingdom hall elders were leaving a planning session when Gonzales approached.

    I wonder what they were planning?

  • asilentone

    it is probably the quarterly meeting for all of the elders. They meet 4(more or less) times a year to discuss congregation matters, etc....Maybe not all congregations do that, but my Dad's congregation did that for years.

  • asilentone

    Maybe the murderer saw his car and decided to approach him on the spot.

  • lesabre

    sounds to me like they were getting ready for a JC?

  • Highlander

    I'm surprised there isn't more violence involving Jehovah's witnesses.(I'm not condoning jw violence) One would think that their destructive shunning policy and deadly blood doctrine would bring about more violent conflicts.

  • TheOldHippie

    "Aside a citation for not wearing a seat belt 10 years ago, Gonzales' record was clear until Wednesday night."

    The police - and the newspapers - really have much upon which to feast, when they keep such records - and make use of them. Look out, here is a potential killer, he did not use his seat belt 10 years ago, keep him under close watch, trouble is breeding!

  • wobble

    "Trouble is breeding" could it be in-breeding ? Oregon seems to have a lot of violence involving JW's over the years, and JW's marry JW's etc.

  • blondie

    I would like to say that Christian Longo and his family were from Michigan and Bryant was from California and both moved to Oregon long after their developing years and at the time were no longer practicing jws. I consider Longo a selfish con-man and Bryant a sad man who had been hurt terribly by his df'ing, his so-called friends at the KH, and his jw family.

  • blondie


    Looks like the shooter is married to the deceased's ex-wife..........is said to no longer be a jw.......by the shooter's decision or was he da'd?

    I doesn't look like it was a JC since he was already "out" but like someone else suggested it was an elders meeting, quarterly.

    The victim had a restraining order drawn up in 2002 and cancelled in 2003....

  • betterdaze

    Update with a twist:

    Man admits Lowell killing
    By Jack Moran
    The Register-Guard
    Published: Thursday, Feb 17, 2011 05:01AM

    A Lowell man on Wednesday admitted to murdering his wife’s ex-husband last May inside a local Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

    Robert Riley Gonzales, 35, pleaded guilty in Lane County Circuit Court to a charge of murder with a firearm in connection with the fatal shooting of Fall Creek resident Kenneth Henry Mort.

    Gonzales also entered guilty pleas to four felony counts of second-degree kidnapping for holding Mort, 47, and three other Kingdom Hall elders hostage inside the Lowell building before the shooting. The Kingdom Hall is a block from the home that Gonzales shared with Mort’s ex-wife.

    The motive for the killing remains unclear, although details should become known next Thursday, when Gonzales is scheduled to return to court for sentencing.
    Gonzales will spend at least 25 years in prison for murdering Mort. The guilty pleas to the kidnapping charges could lead to additional time behind bars.

    Lane County sheriff’s deputies arrested Gonzales about three hours after he shot Mort several times inside the Kingdom Hall on the evening of May 12.

    Gonzales fled the area after the shooting, but deputies captured him in the woods about three miles east of Lowell. He has been held in the Lane County Jail since then.

    In addition to the murder and kidnapping charges, Gonzales faces new criminal charges that could lead to an even lengthier stay in prison.

    Just last week, Lane County prosecutors charged Gonzales with two counts of first-degree sexual abuse and two counts of sodomy for allegedly assaulting two children, one of whom was younger than 12, court documents show.

    Under state Measure 11, all of those charges carry mandatory minimum prison terms upon conviction.

    It is not known whether the new charges relate to the murder case.

    Before being charged with murdering Mort, Gonzales had no criminal record in Oregon. He worked before his arrest as a heavy-equipment operator for a local company.

    Mort, meanwhile, co-owned Hitch Pro & Tow on West 11th Avenue in Eugene for about nine years.

    Court records show that Mort and his ex-wife were married nearly 17 years before divorcing in 2002. On the same day he filed divorce papers, Mort also filed for a restraining order against Gonzales. In the filings, Mort characterized his eventual killer as the “son of a friend who asked me to befriend him.”

    Gonzales married Mort’s ex-wife in about 2005, Gonzales’s brother said during an interview last May with The Register-Guard.

  • VM44

    So much for the Kingdom Halls having special protection.

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