Cops: Oklahoma ministry head dies amid abuse probe
TULSA, Okla.—Oklahoma authorities are investigating whether the executive director of an international Christian ministry killed himself amid allegations he'd molested a 10-year-old girl, police said Monday.
Tom White had been reported missing last Tuesday, the same day police in Bartlesville received a report about the alleged molestation, said Bartlesville Police Capt. Jay Hastings. White was the executive director for The Voice of the Martyrs, a nonprofit headquartered in in the city 50 miles north of Tulsa that says it provides medical supplies, food and clothing to persecuted Christians worldwide.
Police found the 64-year-old's body at the organization's Bartlesville headquarters Wednesday. Employees discovered a letter in White's vehicle indicating he was "suicidal or possibly fleeing to avoid investigation" and turned it over to police, Hastings said.
"You can take it either way," Hastings said. "It was kind of a goodbye letter. You don't know if he was talking about himself."
Hastings said police are awaiting an autopsy report by the state Medical Examiner's Office. A message seeking comment was left with the office Monday.
In a document filed last week in Washington County District Court, police had asked a judge to order White's cellphone carrier to provide them with "real time GPS pinging" of the phone to determine where he was. To support the request, officers stated in the document that White "had been reported to have molested a 10-year-old juvenile female" and that he disappeared when police began to investigate.
Hastings could not say Monday if the child was believed to be involved in the ministry or how White is believed to have come in contact with her.
In a statement posted on its website, the ministry where White had served as executive director for more than 20 years said its board of directors did not know about the accusations at the time of White's death. It went on to say that "rather than face those allegations, and all of the resulting fallout for his family and this ministry and himself, Tom appears to have chosen to take his own life."
"There is no doubt that Tom cared about his wife, his children and his grandchildren. And there's no doubt that he cared about VOM," the statement said. "We are deeply saddened by these events. Our hearts are broken."
Ministry spokesman Todd Nettleton said he could not comment beyond the statement.
No telephone listing for White's family could be found Monday.