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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended December 08, 2000
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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
and the LDS Church
Sent on Mormon-News: 09Dec00

By Kent Larsen

LDS Man Murdered by Roommates in Arkansas

FAYETTEVILLE, ARKANSAS -- Police in Fayetteville, Arkansas have arrested the two roommates of LDS Church member Keith VanMaren after they discovered VanMaren murdered in his bed early Wednesday morning. Acting on a tip from an informant, the police went to Van Maren's apartment and found him lying faceup in his bed, apparently strangled with a belt. The roommates, James Pugh, 29, and Joy Doss, 21, were in the apartment and arrested at that time.

According to President Robert Osburn of the LDS Church's University Branch, VanMaren was an active church member who attended Sunday meetings each week and attended dances and activities. A convert of just a year, VanMaren had joined the LDSSA associated with the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, even though he was not a student.

VanMaren's father, Steven, says that his son's trusting nature made it easy to take advantage of him. "He's a trusting soul, and it got him into trouble." President Osburn agrees, saying that VanMaren was trying to convert his roommates, "I really think his feelings were that he would convert them and get them back in line to a standard religion. He was the kind who really thought he could help people."

VanMaren grew up as a Catholic in Utah, joining the Army after high school. He was discharged from the Army in October 1994 after he had an allergic reaction to a bee sting that put him in the hospital. He moved to Fayetteville to be closer to a relative and planned to attend college.

Police believe that VanMaren had given up on his roommates and was planning to kick them out, at least in part at the suggestion of fellow Church members who urged VanMaren to cut his ties to Pugh and Doss because they were taking advantage of him. Police are still investigating exactly how the murder occurred, and have not yet decided whether to charge Doss and Pugh with either first-degree murder or with capital murder, which carries the death penalty. Both Doss and Pugh have admitted to participating in the murder, saying that they entered VanMaren's room at about 3 am and suffocated and strangled him while he slept. However, each of them claims that the other played a larger role in the murder.


Police charge couple in roommate's death
Little Rock AR Democrat-Gazette 7Dec00 D2
By Andy Davis: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Possible motives for strangling emerge; 2 roommates stay jailed
Little Rock AR Democrat-Gazette 8Dec00 D2
By Andy Davis: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Fayetteville: Victim 'thought he could help people'
Little Rock AR Democrat-Gazette 8Dec00 D2
By Andy Davis: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette


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