The FBI has sent agents to help investigate the slaying of two American missionaries in a southwest town in Guyana near the border with Brazil, police said this past weekend.
Deputy Police Chief Henry Greene said the seven-member FBI team, which was scheduled to arrive this past Monday, would help investigate the slayings of Richard Hicks, 42, and his wife Charlene, 58, who were found dead outside their burned home on the evening of Mar. 30.
The Hicks had served the U.S.-based Wycliffe Bible Translators in Guyana since 1994 to help with language development and translation of the Scriptures for the Wapishana people.
According to the Associated Press, Greene said "police have encouraging leads," including at least one suspect.
"We were shocked and saddened to hear of the deaths of Rich and Charlene Hicks in Guyana," said Bob Creson, President of Wycliffe USA, which received word of the deaths the morning following the incident. "We share the grief and express our condolences to their family, friends and colleagues. Yet we rejoice, knowing that the Hicks are now safely with the God they served and we put our faith in the Word they were faithfully translating in partnership with the Wapishana people.
Wycliffe reported Tuesday that a funeral service and burial organized by the local church and friends would be held Friday afternoon in Lethem near the farm where the Hicks lived and served. It is expected that many Wapishanas and others from the community will attend.
Also, this Saturday, a Canadian memorial service will be held in Ontario to honor the lives of the Hicks, and a similar service will be held in Minnesota on Apr. 16.
According to Wycliffe, local officials have indicated that robbery is the most likely motive behind this killing. The Hick's home and everything in it was destroyed by fire.
AP reported last Saturday that Richard Hicks' body was burnt beyond recognition and his wife was found a few yards away with marks of violence. Autopsies on the Hicks' bodies will be performed this week by U.S. authorities at the invitation of the Guyanese investigators, while two Wycliffe representatives continue to work closely with the investigations. The U.S. Embassy on Friday also offered assistance in solving the deaths.
According to AP, police in Lethem said they so far had two suspects, but one may have fled across the border to Brazil. The second suspect was a former employee of the ranch the Hickses rented.
Wycliffe has asked for prayers for the New Testament Scripture translation in the Wapishana language, which was within only a few years of completion. Although the most current language data appears to have been lost in the fire, much of the backup of the translation materials are safe. The Wapishana language is spoken by thousands of indigenous Amerindians in the border region with Brazil.