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Two Church-related Shootings in Colorado **UPDATED**

(The following entry has been cross-posted to blog.myspace.com/truecrimeweblog.)

(SUBSTANTIAL UPDATES MADE ON 12/11/07. SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM OF THE ENTRY.)

(UPDATE MADE 12/12/07 WITH NEW INFO, LINKS.)

Early Sunday morning a bearded, bespectacled young man started shooting in a missionary training center in Arvada, Colorado. The twenty-something white male wounded two staffers at the Youth with a Mission center and killed two others. The victims in Arvada (a suburb of Denver) were 26-year-old Tiffany Johnson, a young woman from Minnesota, and Phillip Crouse [Crouse’s private MySpace profile], age 23, from Alaska.

One of the victims in the incident in Arvada was said to still be in critical but stable condition.

Police said that the gunman had tried to gain admittance to the center earlier in the evening and was denied. He may have returned later and opened fire.

He was described as wearing dark clothing, a jacket and a skull cap of some sort.

This blogger just posted an entry yesterday about the work being done at the YWAM training center. The young people staying there were gearing up for a mission trip to Argentina. A friend left a comment for the blogger today. In reference to the shooting, the friend wrote, “[We] are with you in prayer as you deal with the loss of Tiffany and Phillip, injuries to Dan and Charles, and the feelings of terror you must have felt in those moments…”

Several hours after the attack on the Youth with a Mission facility, shots were fired again, in Colorado Springs, CO, an hour and a half south of Denver.

This time the target was the New Life Church, former home of infamous fallen pastor Ted Haggard.

Gunfire broke out at New Life around 1:30 p.m. Mountain Time.

As many as four victims were shot outside the New Life Church. Authorities reporting from the scene say there may be two gunmen in Colorado Springs. Fox News has also reported that police are searching for a car loaded with bombs. CNN has said that one suspect in Colorado Springs is now in custody. New Life Church is on lockdown.

Witnesses described at least one gunman as a young male wearing all black and carrying what appeared to be an assault rifle.

Fox News anchors have repeatedly pointed out that if these shootings targeted faith-related facilities on purpose, they could be hate crimes under Colorado statutes.

365Gay.com, however, has noted that both Youth with a Mission and New Life could be considered “anti-gay.” Before becoming enmeshed in his own gay scandal, New Life founding pastor Ted Haggard had been an “outspoken critic of homosexuality.” According to 365Gay.com, Youth with a Mission “has been involved with the so-called ex-gay movement. It was one of a number of conservative Christian youth groups brought together by Exodus International, said to be the largest “ex-gay” organization in the country.”

No one knows yet if the shootings in Arvada were related to the incident in Colorado Springs.

UPDATE, 7:38 p.m. ET

The AFP is reporting a chilling quote from El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa on the shootings at New Life Church in Colorado Springs:

Maketa told AFP there was “one gunman down” and “four deceased, possibly one wounded” in the incident but said the toll was “preliminary.”

There are reports that an armed security guard at New Life may have killed a gunman there. The number of gunmen involved in the second shooting is still unclear.

UPDATE, 12/10/07 7:24 a.m. ET

(Note: I’m still not feeling well. Some readers know that I have MS. It has been well under control for most of the last year or so, but a relapse began last week and has carried over into this week. This wouldn’t usually affect blogging or writing, but this relapse has brought with it some balance problems, and I can only look at a computer screen for so long before the dizziness and vertigo make it hard to do. I bring this up only to make it clear as to why there hasn’t been more active blogging on this story in particular.)

Arvada police chief Don Wick has told reporters that the shootings in Denver and Colorado Springs may be related, after all.

The Denver Post published an address now under investigation in Englewood, Colorado. The address was sneakily inserted in a photo caption:

A Centennial Sheriff officer makes a phone call as nvestigators enter and leave a home at 10929 E. Berry Pl. (visible in background) in Englewood. (Glenn Asakawa, The Denver Post)

According to Arapahoe County, CO property records, the 4-bedroom, 2-story home at that address is owned by a family named Murray. The male owner has the same name as a neurologist who has done studies of multiple sclerosis with the Colorado Multiple Sclerosis Center, which is located in Englewood.

Police may have already confiscated two vehicles from the property.

The overall death toll in the Colorado church shootings is up to 5 — 4 victims and the gunman himself. He was reportedly dispatched by a female security guard at the New Life Church after he’d opened fire in the parking lot.

I feared there would be another mass shooting somewhere in the U.S. after the Westroads Mall murder spree committed by Robert Hawkins on December 5. I still worry that before Christmas is over, we may see more.

UPDATE, 11:24 a.m. ET

The Associated Press has reported that the victims of the New Life Church shooting spree were sisters Stephanie and Rachel Works, ages 18 and 16, respectively. Also injured was a David Works, age 51, the girls’ father.

UPDATE, 1:44 p.m. ET

The gunman was 24-year-old Matthew Murray, of Englewood, Colorado, according to multiple sources, including MSNBC.

With a name as common as that, I wish the websleuths out there luck in tracking Mr. Murray online. I don’t have the energy to do it myself, today.

I’m just as curious about Jeanne Assam, a volunteer security worker at New Life Church, who took Mr. Murray down with her own weapon. She is a true hero.

UPDATE, 12/11/07, 7:26 a.m. ET

Posting as “nghtmrchld26,” Matthew Murray hashed out his experience as a homeschooler as well as his loathing of evangelical Christians at a message board for ex-pentecostals.

According to multiple sources, including Fox News, Murray made a threatening post the night he began his rampage that duplicated in some respects words written by one of the Columbine killers, Eric Harris. The post has been either removed or made private due to the investigation into Murray’s actions last Sunday, but other messages by the church shooter were still available Tuesday morning.

Murray wrote at length about what he claimed was his experience with Youth With a Mission in Denver. The following was posted on May 8, 2007:

I did my DTS at YWAM Denver and Dale Lambert was my DTS school leader. I witnessed all kinds of insanity. Men would be making out with other men in the hallways, listening to all kinds of “metal music”(non-christian), smoke pot with each other while off base, there were rumors of sexual activity, both hetero and homosexual.

Not that any of those things are bad…but…….
Why was I told that I couldn’t be a missionary because I wasn’t “social enough”? I was told that I was “an introvert.”

Murray continued:

The fact is, in YWAM, and christianity, it’s all about the Beautiful People. No, it’s not just “one group of bad christians” but rather….almost every group of christians except for a few open minded non-evangelical churches. If you’re an extrovert, and popular, then yes, there is plenty of love waiting for you in christianity. If you ask questions and want to understand things and/or desire a real and deep spirituality, or if you’re just not popular…well…….you are considered as one of the horrible people and are either going to be abused or kicked out by “holy spirit love filled” christians. it’s all about……
the Beautiful People……..

On December 1, 2007, Murray made a post titled, “Insane things we went through in Christian homeschool.” Murray wrote:

I remember the beatings and the fighting and yelling and insane rules and all the Bill Gothard bull**** and then trancing out…sh**……I’m still tranced out. I remember how it was like every day was Mission Impossible trying to keep the rules or not get caught and just….survive every single f***ing day. My mother’s a f***ing psycho too, her and her whole church and christian family.

Of course people will say the usual fake answers “just stop being this way and be happy from now on…” “we don’t have the time and the energy to give a s*** about you…” “you’re not the only one who has it bad” “I had it a lot worse than you and I’m happy and doing great” “you’re not popular you know…no one likes you very much”

Murray’s words grew ominous:

I’m not getting any younger and it’s time for the abuse to stop. Just because I’m not one of the “Beautiful People,” just because other people don’t understand or because I’m not “popular” does not mean I need to take any more s*** from anyone…

Like many antisocial personalities, Murray seemed to have a vast reserve of self-pity. This was expressed in lyrics he posted to the forum. One was published on August 5, 2007. He didn’t say directly that he was the author. Murray posted other poems or lyrics in the thread that were actually from an album by the “melodic funeral doom band from Finland,” Shape of Despair. Elsewhere he cribbed from American death metal rockers Deicide. nghtmrchld26’s August post read, in part:

Crying all alone
The tears flowing down my face in a beautiful stream
The lovely misery and lonely darkness surrounding me
As I see everyone going on with their meaningless vain fake lives
All the posers and wannabes
All the abusers

Crying all alone
Cutting myself
High off the pain and darkness
Seeing so many fakers hating me
So many of my friends who have abandoned me
So many spiritual pretenders who failed to help me.
I���m your nightmares come true
You think you can punish me but you fail to see
That I���ve lived through a thousand nightmares
And all your worst Christian fears are coming true…

And so on. Further down the same message thread, “nghtmrchld26” posted another message, this one dated Oct. 1. Like much of his writing on the board, the content of the post is chilling, referencing depression, pain and hatred. The following part of that message was eerie because it reflected his ongoing hatred of YWAM:

This is also the downward spiral here….no one has any real answers, only lame answers and fear of what me and my friends grew up in, and fear of the depressing aftermath.
On the positive side, that fact that we’ve survived this long means we’re a LOT stronger than most people, especially these lamers who are terrified of my poetry. We’re stronger than these pentecostal Youth With A Mission assholes who said “you can’t be writing down your feelings, especially not about depression.” We’ve proven that we’re a lot stronger than these sick bastards in the charismatic and pentecostal movement.

Welcome to the Nightmare

The message signature read, “You can’t kill me because I’m already inside you.”

Perhaps one of the strangest posts by nghtmrchld26 was made on September 7, 2007. The post title was “Prophetic Child.” The message in its entirety:

Since I was at least age 6 my mother and her church friends have always told me about how my birth was “foretold.” They say that while I was still in my mother’s womb a “prophet” told my mother that I was to be, quote, “a prophet to the nations” and something along the lines of the next Billy Graham/Peter Wagner.
They said that the following verses applied to me:
Mat. 12.18 and Ezk. 36:26-28

Basically, they believe that I am their “chosen one” for “the end times” and according to the Ezekial passage they believe that I am going to go back to their church/system.

The problem right now is the fact that it appears that they are always going to pursue me throughout life(and they have said so), as I am supposedly the “chosen one.” As far as I can tell they did not treat the other youth the same way.

Well, I don’t want to be their “chosen one” at all. I just wish I could find some way to wake up from this nightmare.

Murray’s words were accepted without question or criticism due to the nature of the forum — most members seeming to feel that they were going through a kind of recovery. There were some replies that might be interpreted as sarcastic, but Murray didn’t seem to catch the sarcasm. Later in the “Prophetic Child” thread, Murray elaborated on his “chosen one” story:

In this prophecy, they also believe that it was “prophesied” that I would rebel, but then RETURN to their church and that’s helping to drive me crazy.

They will always be targeting me,hoping and praying I’ll come back, waiting for some weakness(financial, health, or otherwise) so they can move in and re-convert me. Sometimes I fear I’ll end up going back. Sometimes the depression gets so dark, and trying to live in the “real unsheltered world” gets so hard I start to think about returning back to what is at least “familiar,” into a system I at least know how to behave and live in. I know there is a way out of this nightmare

It’s just so f***ed up that this is the whole reason I was born.
The virgins are feeling cheated and there is an exit here,
Don’t say it isn’t it’s true……

I went to God just to see………

His words at the end of that Nov. 4 message indicated some sort of belief in the “prophecy,” even though he’d first seemed skeptical.

Posting song lyrics by death metal bands as if they were his own words, using emoticons to indicate “crying” on certain messages… it’s hard to believe he wasn’t just a psycho gaming even other “ex-pentecostals.”

It was in a thread improbably titled “Cabbage Patch Dolls” that Matthew Murray left a message where he mentioned both Ted Haggard — the founding pastor of the New Life Church — and Youth With a Mission (YWAM). A quote from Murray’s post, made June 16, 2007, with emphasis added:

Harry Potter was considered to be “the new age satanist training manual for children that witches are trying to use in these end-times to promote satanism”

Interesting that Methamphetamine use and pedophilia were never on any of those lists……(maybe that’s how Ted Haggard and other un-named christians excuse their various christian activities?)

I’ve since realized that these things were all based on fear and that the REAL evil and abuse was/is to be found in these pentecostal dominionist churches and authoritarian groups such as Youth With A Mission.

So, as far back as June of this year, Matthew Murray was alluding in an online message board post to the exact groups he ended up targeting on December 9, 2007. How long was his plan in place, after all?

UPDATE, 1:49 p.m. ET

A reader has pointed out via email that Matthew Murray may have posted on a separate forum entirely under the screen name, “Chrstnghtmr.” (Link takes you to a site-specific search of the screen name.)

“Chrstnghtmr’s” posts at IndependentSpirits.net were identical in tone and similar in content to the messages published on the ex-Pentecostal forum by nghtmrchld26.

Read what this person said two days after Robert Hawkins’s December 5 shooting spree at the Westroads Mall in Omaha, NE (scroll to the bottom of the page linked):

Sounds like one of the Nobodies became a Somebody…sure he’s still hated by everyone, that is obvious, but at least now he’s a somebody…..and he’s left a world that didn’t give a sh** about him to begin with…

If Chrstnghtmr was indeed Matthew Murray, it appears he was most immediately inspired by Hawkins’s spree. This is not a surprise, as these types of mass shootings sometimes seem to come in clusters.

Chrstnghtmr’s last post was apparently made in the early a.m. December 9. In his message he referenced Ricky Rodriguez, an ex-cult member who went on a more personally-directed killing spree in 2005, taking out people he’d known personally in a sexually-abusive cult called “The Family.”

Before quoting at length from a video left behind by Rodriguez, Chrstnghtmr wrote the following:

This kid went through abuse in christianity just like me and my friends…..he was even intended to be their next “prophet”…just my church said to me…….that I was going to be a “prophet to the nations” for their christianity
We’ll have to see how accurate their prophecy really is

If Matthew Murray was posting from both the nghtmrchld26 and Chrstnghtmr screen names, he was probably referencing what nghtmrchld26 had said was his mother’s prophecy for him — an ex-pentecostal forum quote found in the previous blog update above. Murray claimed that part of that prophecy was that he’d return to the church after rejecting it.

I strongly believe both posters were Matthew Murray. Others do, as well, including one who chose a chilling screen name to use when leaving messages of mourning for Murray on the IndependentSpirits forum: Chrstnghtmr2.

UPDATE, 9:53 p.m. ET

A discussion is already occurring in the comments left on this post about a MySpace found by a commentator using only the initial “A.”

The profile and blog attached to it reads like a rubric for every post found online by a screen name associated with Matthew Murray. The last login was December 8, the last blog post was made that day. The profile’s headline reads, “You raised me up in your christian hell…..who’s mistake am I anyways?”

It appears, though, to be owned by a 23-year-old woman using the name “Sarah.”

A 23-year-old woman from Englewood, CO.

Many posts in the MySpace blog are identical to posts left by both nghtmrchild26 and chrstnghtmr at two message boards, posts quoted in previous updates. The same death metal song lyrics are quoted without attribution to the actual source.

Truly telling is the “About Me.” Quoted in its entirety, with emphasis:

Abused and tormented by christians for many years growing up in christianity. Christians, if you want to preach/witness to me, please keep in mind: I know all the apologetics stuff, all the evangelism and pentecostal stuff. I was forced to memorize bible verses 5 days a week growing up 11 years in christian homeschool. I was involved with and taught the ideas of C. Peter Wagner, Mike Bickle, Bill Gothard, and many others. I went to all kinds of fundamentalist/pentecostal/evangelical bible studies, conferences, prayer meetings, and even a missionary school/ministry called Youth With A Mission Denver. Of course, LOTS of hypocrisy and NO REAL love to be found at YWAM Denver. I know the bible better than most christian pastors. Oh, and I’ve already been baptised, received “the baptism of the holy spirit”, spoke in tongues and all those other games christians love to play. I’ve lived the christian life, did all the faith stuff, confessions of faith, the baptism stuff, the prayer stuff, and all the rule stuff. If I’m not changed, well, it aint my fault. I did my part of the deal. Christians thought they could get away with abusing me and others, they thought the Truth and Light would never be found out. They were wrong. Even though many christians have tried to oppress and control the lives of many, even though many christians serving darkness have tried to carry on their fascist agenda of bigotry, intolerance, tyranny, and hatred, the Light ever shines, even in the darkness though the darkness comprehendeth it not. The Light is available for all who have eyes to see. Read our blog for more

I believe this MySpace profile was a sock puppet for Matthew Murray. Why he used a young woman’s photo and name is anyone’s guess, though his MySpace groups might be a hint — one was for “ALL REAL LESBIANS & BISEXUALS & BEATIFUL (sic) GIRLS.”

Seems like the sort of group that might appeal to an immature, withdrawn young man like Murray.

The link for the profile, which is, incidentally, also named “Chrstnnghtmr”:

http://www.myspace.com/69684771.

UPDATE, 12/12/07, 8:26 a.m. ET

In an article noting that the ex-Pentecostal forum owners warned the FBI about Matthew Murray’s violent posts on Sunday, Dec. 9, a new possible screen name for Murray was revealed: “DyingChild-65.” (It was actually “dyingchild_65” — note the underscore.)

This is significant because I believe it provides another link back to the Chrstnghtmr persona he may have also created. Both the poster on the IndependentSpirits.net forum, and the female MySpace profile owner, who called herself “Sarah” and used the same screen name, adding only an “n” — Chrstnnghtmr. The reason why the connection seems solid is simple — the profile for Chrstnghtmr at IndependentSpirits, which can only be viewed by registered users, contained the Yahoo e-mail handle Chrstnghtmr_65.

There is a certain consistency here that is compelling, even in the simple addition of an underscore and a number to a screen name. There is a ton of repetition on the Web, but people still make unique and easily identifiable choices, too. That Murray was said to have spent countless hours online only makes it more believable that he’d have a complex and widespread presence on the Web.

As usual, the multiple contributors to the article mentioning “DyingChild_65” screwed up not only the formatting of the screen name (on the Web, the difference between a dash and an underscore is important), but their understanding of where this alleged Matthew Murray nick could be found online — the posts he made were to the oldest public part of the Internet, the Usenet. Specifically:

http://groups.google.com/group/alt.suicide.holiday/.

This is the post that DyingChild_65 left on Sunday, December 9, at 9:33 a.m. MST. The message was titled, “Christian America…..this is YOUR Columbine.” The message read:

I am DyingChild_65
[. . .]
I was raised in the the teachings of C. Peter Wagner, Bill Gothard,
Charismatic and Pentecostal movements and all that other bullshit.
Homeschooled for about 11-12 years. I was a staff member of Kings Kids
Denver, Ronny Morris is the director there. I was also put through a
YWAM Denver “DTS” school….both those places rejected me and wouldn’t
let me be a missionary because…….I was “too shy”(translation:not
popular enough, a Nobody)
Me I’ve heard all the sermons on salvation and shit…I’ve looked
everywhere for spiritual truth….all I found in christianity was
hate, abuse(sexual, physical, psychological, and emotional),
hypocrisy, and lies….I’m just one of the Noodies who just wants to
be loved and accepted somewhere……I just want to be one of the
somebodies

Like Cho, Eric Harris, Ricky Rodriguez and others, I’m going out to
make a stand for the weak and the defensless… this is for all those
young people still caught in the Nightmare of Christianity…for all
those people who’ve been abused and mistreated and taken advantage of
by this evil sick religion….Christian America….this is YOUR
Columbine

DyingChild_65 also left another message half an hour later. He appeared to quote Eric Harris at length as he’d done in the messages removed from the ex-Pentecostal forum. The post was titled, “You Christians brought this on yourselves.

The message read, in part:

I’m coming for EVERYONE soon and I WILL be armed to the fucking teeth
and I WILL shoot to kill. ….God, I can’t wait till I can kill you
people. Feel no remorse, no sense of shame, I don’t care if I live or
die in the shoot-out. All I want to do is kill and injure as many of
you … as I can especially Christians who are to blame for most of the
problems in the world…

Additional alt.suicide.holiday posts by DyingChild_65:

YOUR Christian Nightmare,” posted 12/09/07 at 9:33 a.m.

Disturbing quote in which the writer may have even forecast his death later in the day:

By now it’s over. If you are reading this my
mission is complete. I have finished
revolutionizing the neo-euphoric infliction
of my internal terror. Your children who
have ridiculed me, who have chosen not to
accept me, who have treated me like I am not
worth their time are dead. THEY ARE FUCKING
DEAD. Surely you will try to blame it on the
clothes I wear, the music I listen to, or
the way I choose to present myself- but no.
Do not hide behind my choices. You need to
face the fact that this comes as a result of
YOUR CHOICES. Parents, pastors, christians, YOU
FUCKED UP. You have taught these kids to be
gears and sheep. To think and act like those
who came before them, to not accept what is
different. YOU ARE IN THE WRONG. I may have
taken their lives and my own- but it was
your doing. Teachers, Parents, LET THIS
MASSACARE BE ON YOUR SHOULDERS UNTIL THE DAY
YOU DIE. Am I insane? Maybe. Is it my fault?
No. I did not choose this life, but I have
indeed chosen to exit it. You may think the
horror ends with the bullet in my head- but
you wouldn’t be so lucky.

*********************

We are the Nobodies,” posted 12/09/07 at 9:49 a.m. MST.

Disturbing quote in which the writer reveals he was the inadequate, antisocial loser we’ve all assumed he was since Sunday:

So many people don’t have any clue about The Nightmare we’ve grown up
in. I mean, it’s not my fault I was raised in homeschool for 12
f***ing years and that I’m not able to “socialize normally.” How am I
supposed to socialize and make new friends when I’m always left out of
everything, and always made to be the outcast? I’m nice, I’m
considerate, a lot of people tell me I’m intelligent and kind….so
why the f*** must everyone think they have some right to abuse and
reject me?

I hate you people for leaving me out of so many fun things. Never
inviting me to all your fun parties, never inviting me to hang out.
And no, don’t say, ‘Well, that’s your fault’ because it isn’t. You
people had my phone number, and I asked and all, but no no no no no
don’t let the weird kid come along, oooh f***ing nooo

Right now I’m trying to get laid and to finish up some sh**. Why the
F**k can’t I get any? I mean, I’m nice and considerate and all that
s***, but nooooo…. it’s not my fault I was sheltered my whole life
and wasn’t given a f***inkg clue about sex and dating…

*********************

This post will be updated and revised.

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