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Watchdog: Murder of Street Preachers in Florida Is 'Alarming'

( [email protected] ) Feb 16, 2010 03:02 PM EST

The murder of two young street preachers in Florida by a teenager whom they shared the Gospel with is “alarming,” said a spokesperson for a religious freedom watchdog group.

Eighteen-year-old Jeriah Woody, whose street name is “Plug,” is charged with two counts of first-degree murder. Woody allegedly shot and killed Tite Sufra, 24, and Stephen Ocean, 23, on Jan. 30 after they shared about Christ with him during the 15 minutes they talked.

Woody’s phone reportedly rang and he turned and walked away to take the call. But then he turned around again and started walking towards the street preachers. Sufra approached him and Woody allegedly shot him in the head. Ocean tried to run away, but police said Woody allegedly shot him in the back and then walked up to him and shot him again in the head at point-blank range.

The police account is based on the third street preacher that was with Sufra and Ocean when they talked to Woody. The unidentified third minister had escaped by running in the opposite direction.

Woody turned himself in on Feb. 3 and remains in jail without bond.

“We are concerned that the hate crimes against Christians could be increased in the United States,” said Jonathon Racho, regional manager for Africa and South Asia at International Christian Concern, to The Christian Post Monday. “This is very alarming.”

He added, “We hear this kind of thing happening in other countries like India, Nigeria, China, North Korea, where Christians are being killed, imprisoned and so forth. But for Christians to be killed for preaching the Gospel here in the United States, it is very, very alarming.”

Several Christian organizations have wondered out loud why there has been so little media coverage despite the incident occurring more than two weeks ago.

"If this had been two Muslims out sharing the Quran and talking to people about Mohammad and they were shot and killed, there would be marches, there would be protest, there would be 24-hour coverage,” said Todd Nettleton, a spokesperson for the Voice of the Martyrs, to Mission Network News. “As a Christian, that's a frustrating thing that the media doesn't seem to want to pay attention to incidents where Christians are targeted."

Police have not identified Woody’s motive for killing the street preachers.