By Stan Friedman
CHICAGO, IL (April 26, 2011) – Two attendees of Evangelical Covenant Church congregations were murdered during Holy Week in separate incidents.
Bolivia Beck, a 21-year-old mother, was murdered April 17 across the street from Promised Land Covenant Church in Bronx, New York, by a gunman who had intended to kill her boyfriend. The day before, on Palm Sunday, she had raised her hand to accept Christ as Savior during an altar call.
In an unrelated incident on Maundy Thursday, 40-year-old Robert Stubbs was stabbed to death and his 27-year-old wife, Melissa, was injured by a person they had let stay at their Westbrook, Maine, home. The couple had been attending Christ Church in nearby Portland for the last year and a half.
Promised Land is located in Mott Haven, considered to be the poorest neighborhood in the country’s poorest congressional district. “This murder shows the kind of situation we are trying to minister in,” said Pastor Michael Carrion, a former drug addict.
On Monday evening, Beck was walking with her 21-year-old boyfriend, Joey Colon, in a housing project area. He planned to introduce her to his grandmother. Colon had left a gang and the alleged 21-year-old gunman apparently was trying to assassinate him, Carrion said.
According to news reports, the suspect, who has been arrested, came across the couple about 7:30 p.m., pulled a handgun and fired two shots. One struck Beck in the head. The mother of a four-year-old child died Wednesday at Lincoln Hospital.
“She was just a beautiful person,” said Carrion. “When she smiled, the whole room lit up.”
Nine children between the ages of seven and 11 were playing outside the church and saw the murder, Carrion said. The church has been providing grief counseling.
A service is being planned, said Carrion. Because the woman’s family has no money, the church is raising funds to purchase a coffin and pay other funeral expenses, he added. A march against violence also is being planned.
Stubbs also was murdered by someone he knew from a criminal past, according to his pastor, Mark Pearson.
Pearson says the suspect had come to the Stubbs’ home saying he was traveling through town and asked if he could he stay for a couple of days. The couple reluctantly said yes. “They let him stay out of the kindness of their hearts,” Pearson said.
They asked the suspect to leave the next day after hearing him making a drug deal over the phone. An argument ensued and the suspect repeatedly stabbed Robert in the chest.
Melissa Stubbs, who also was stabbed, was treated at the hospital and later released. Doctors described it as a close call – the knife missed her heart by several millimeters, according to Pearson.
The Stubbs started coming to the church about 18 months ago because the church had been picking up their children along with others for a special program the congregation runs.
Melissa has been attending a small group, and Robert was studying the Bible with Pearson. The couple had recently told Pearson they wanted to become members.
“Robert had really grown, especially in the last year,” Pearson said. “He had grown to be incredibly gracious.”
He also had expressed his desire to become more intent on sharing the gospel. “Here was a guy who was just about to become a bridge to the community,” said Pearson.
He already was engaged in the life of the church. Robert had made himself the unofficial supervisor of the parking lot so children would not get hurt when services let out.
“He was great with kids in the church and with his own,” said Pearson. He leaves two young children and an adult son from a previous marriage.
Pearson began to choke up when talking about the victim. “It’s devastating,” he said.
Carrion and Pearson say their congregations are being comforted by the promise of resurrection for those who were slain. “It made Sunday more real and powerful – that we don’t pay for our sins,” said Pearson.
“I do not know ever of a time when we have had two murders of people in one week whose lives were woven into the ministries of our churches,” said Howard Burgoyne, superintendent of the East Coast Conference. “The fact that both of them came in Holy Week is a stark framing of the tragedy within the triumph of our hope in Christ.”
Funeral arrangements for Robert Stubbs are pending.