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Baptist teacher in China murdered, leaving pregnant wife, 6 daughters

BEIJING (BP)–A Southern Baptist teacher working for a nondenominational ministry in the central Chinese city of Wuhan was stabbed to death inside a church just before the start of a worship service.

Bruce Emerson Morrison, formerly of New Orleans, was stabbed in the abdomen by a Chinese Protestant, identified as Gong Zhili, before the service at the church on Feb. 3.

Morrison, 37, had been an English teacher at the Hubei Industrial Institute since 1993, an official at the Three-Self Patriotic Movement Committee of Protestant Churches of Wuhan told a French news agency.

Morrison’s parents are members of Suburban Baptist Church in New Orleans, and he was raised as a Southern Baptist.

He lived in Wuhan, in Hubei province with his wife, Valori, 34, and six daughters. His wife is pregnant with the couple’s seventh child, the church official said.

Following the stabbing, Morrison was rushed to a local hospital but efforts to save him failed.

Gong was soon apprehended by police and an investigation into the incident was continuing, the official said.

The motive for the murder has not been determined, but the official at the Chinese committee said Gong suffered from mental illness and as a result might have been oversensitive about his friendship with Morrison. Morrison and Gong had known each other since 1999 and would socialize at church, the church official said.

“Gong has mental problems. They had frequent contacts at church initially. But later Morrison said maybe he did not want to talk to him as often as before, so their friendship was estranged,” the official said.

He said Gong walked into the church around 1:45 p.m. on Feb. 3, shouted “Teacher Mo” — Morrison’s name and title in Wuhan — and then stabbed him.

“Because of mental illness, he thinks the teacher no longer likes him, no longer cares about him,” the official said.

The official said Gong’s parents have requested a chance to meet Morrison’s family to express their regret.

Gong, 34, was a former music teacher who stopped working a few years ago and lived on disability benefits after he became emotionally unstable, the committee official said.

U.S. Embassy officials are providing Morrison’s family with assistance but they refused to comment on the case.

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  • Todd Starnes