PARADISE, Calif. (BP) — A former Southern Baptist church planter is facing murder charges and soon will go to trial for his alleged role in a 2008 home invasion robbery in California.
Police say William Kurt Breunle and two other men broke into the home of Paradise, Calif., resident Eric Jones in December 2008 when he wasn’t at home and waited for him to arrive. When he came home, they beat and gagged him, tied him up and left him in the front yard, where he died of traumatic asphyxia, according to the Chico Enterprise-Record. The three men allegedly were after his marijuana, which Jones grew for medical reasons. Jones was 50.
Breunle is charged with a count of murder, two counts of kidnapping and two counts of witness intimidation, according to the Enterprise-Record. He also faces charges in two separate marijuana robbery incidents and in an insurance fraud case, according to KHSL-TV.
One of the men allegedly involved in the Paradise crime, Darrell Leigh Hughes, reached an agreement with prosecutors and will testify against Breunle and the third man.
In 2002, Breunle was profiled in Baptist Press as one of the featured North American Mission Board missionaries leading up to Week of Prayer for North American missions. He left the NAMB missionary force in April 2003. His rough past had made his story unique: A former body builder on steroids and a former professional wrestler, he had spent two-plus years in jail on steroid-related charges before becoming a Christian in jail. He soon led jailmates to Christ and, once out of jail, attended California Baptist University and became a church planter. The 2002 Baptist Press article said he had helped launch 38 new congregations.
Compiled by Michael Foust, associate editor of Baptist Press.