Police in Kenya investigate killing of Md. man

Factory worker, 62, killed while on church mission

January 03, 2004|By Frank Langfitt and Sandy Alexander | Frank Langfitt and Sandy Alexander,SUN STAFF

Kenyan police are investigating the death of a Western Maryland truck factory worker who was shot to death in an apparent robbery this week during a Christian missionary trip to the East African nation.

Police said Paul A. Ritchey, 62, was killed Tuesday evening when assailants entered the guesthouse where he was staying in Malaba, a town on the country's western edge near the Ugandan border.

"There were two local children watching television in the house where he was staying, and the intruders told them to lie down," said William Okello, officer in charge of Kenya's Teso district.

"When [Ritchey] came out of the bedroom, one of the men told him in Kiswahili to hand over his money. Apparently. he didn't understand, and he told them to go away. Then he was shot," Okello said.

Although details of the crime remained sketchy yesterday, police did not indicate any connection between the the killing and Ritchey's missionary work.

Nairobi's East Africa Standard newspaper reported that the assailants, who were armed with an AK-47, a machete and a knife, escaped to Uganda across the Malaba River, where police were pursuing them.

Ritchey's family declined to discuss his mission work or the specifics of his death yesterday, saying they were still coming to grips with their loss.

"It's only been three days," said Ritchey's son-in-law, who gave only his first name, David, as he stood on the front porch of the family's two-story, red-brick house in Hagerstown. "The body has not been returned yet."

"They are a very private family," said Harold Miles, principal of nearby Heritage Academy, where Ritchey's wife, Dulce, was a custodian until her retirement two years ago.

Ritchey, a member of Hagerstown's Bible Brethren Church, was in Kenya last month preaching in churches, as he had on trips to the country in past years. He was a guest of Pastor Arnold Opacha of the Baptist Outreach Church in Malaba, a dusty town along the Trans-Africa Highway near Lake Victoria.

Ritchey was a technician at Mack Trucks Inc. in Hagerstown. The plant, which builds engines and transmissions, closes for about a week each year around Christmas.

Ritchey, who had worked at the plant for 35 years, coupled vacation time with the annual shutdown to make time for overseas missions, a plant employee said yesterday.

Kenya has a well-documented crime problem. In a consular information sheet, the U.S. Department of State warns American tourists to guard against pickpockets, muggings, carjackings and residential break-ins.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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