Missionary slain in Romania
By JAMIE JONES, Times Staff Writer
Timothy "Luke" Snow could have lived anywhere in Bucharest, Romania.
The 21-year-old missionary from Brooksville had enough money to rent an apartment on a quiet street, a place with air conditioning and soft carpet, without roaches.
But he refused, saying he needed to live like the people he served, to stay near the orphanage and boys home where he had counseled teens since his college graduation in May.
Snow was always unassuming and trusting.
That's probably why Snow welcomed three men into his apartment after they knocked on his door the morning of July 23.
The men beat and stabbed Snow, stole his laptop computer, locked the apartment door and left, investigators said. Snow's pastor found his body the next day.
Bucharest police have arrested three suspects. They think Snow knew two of them, ages 16 and 17, from his work with the Calvary Chapel mission, an evangelical Christian organization based in California. A 21-year-old also has been charged.
Snow had worked in Bucharest for about two months, counseling children, sweeping floors, doing other needed tasks. He spent afternoons in a city park and played basketball with local teenagers, sometimes inviting them into his home and to church activities.
On July 23, two of those teens knocked on Snow's door, officials said. Investigators think they brought along the 21-year-old, known to authorities because of his lengthy criminal record.
The 21-year-old planned to steal and then sell Snow's laptop, a valuable possession in Romania, authorities said. His death, which made the front pages of Romanian newspapers, shocked officials, colleagues and friends, who have sent dozens of e-mails offering support to his family.
"This type of crime is highly unusual for Romania," said Mark Wenig, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest.
Snow's apartment showed few signs of a struggle, an indication he welcomed the men inside.
"He was so gentle, so trusting," said his mother, Sandra.
Snow was the second oldest of four boys and was always tender, acting as the family peacemaker, she said.
He was a quiet leader, taking his brothers on exploring missions through the thick woods outside their Brooksville home when they were young.
Snow's father had always known that he and his son were different from each other.
Thomas Snow couldn't understand his son's optimism and positive outlook, how he could sit for hours in his room, propped against the headboard, reading Robinson Crusoe. Or how he could dangle a pole in a pond so patiently.
Thomas Snow wasn't like that. He went fishing to catch something. His son just went to fish. He always seemed content.
After finishing his home-schooled education, Snow decided to work as a counselor for a Christian camp in Montana. He had always talked about living there, in the backwoods, off the land.
His mother hated to see him go.
She had gotten used to their long conversations in the kitchen, a place she made warm with lace curtains and plants along the windowsill.
After two months in Montana, Snow moved to California, where he enrolled in Calvary Chapel Bible College in Murrieta.
"He always looked like he was full of joy," said Sean Housman, 25, a graduate of the college. "He had a lot of friends, a big heart and loved people."
During Snow's second year, he transferred to the college's campus in southern Austria.
He liked the requirement that students perform missionary work each semester and decided to work in Romania. He enjoyed the people he met and returned for another trip.
After graduating in May, Snow decided he would live there. He bought a plane ticket and moved in with the family of a pastor, Paul Tilman, whom he had met through the college.
After a month, Luke got an apartment of his own.
He invited several friends and teenagers over to watch the World Cup. Authorities think two of his guests noticed the laptop.
On July 24, Snow did not show up at Bible study, which was unusual.
Pastor Tilman went to the apartment, which was locked. The landlord let him inside, and he found Snow's body.
Tilman called the authorities and provided them with pictures of people Snow had worked with.
Investigators found the two teens, who admitted stabbing Snow and who led authorities to the 21-year-old, who was taken into custody at gunpoint, said Chief Deputy Mike Hensley, of the Hernando County Sheriff's Office.
Hensley is a friend of the Snows and has discussed the case with the lead investigator in Bucharest.
Authorities recovered the laptop, which will be sent to Snow's parents. His Bibles were stolen and have not been found, Hensley said.
"I miss him," Sandra Snow said. "I miss his face."
Thomas Snow is sorry he was not there to protect his son.
"I've thought about going over there and doing what the law can't do. I can understand those feelings now," he said. "But then I think that he's in heaven, and peace comes. It doesn't hurt as much then."
The Snows plan to bury their son this weekend during a private service in Brooksville.
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