Matthew J. Murray, 24, of Englewood, CO, killed five people (including himself) and injured six during two attacks on the same day at two religious locations -- one near Denver, and the other in Colorado Springs, CO. He may have selected the Youth With a Mission Center near Denver (YWAM) as his first target because he had trained there as a missionary before being rejected by them in 2003. He may have chosen the New Life Church in Colorado Springs as his second target because it is the largest Charismatic congregation in Colorado, and he seems to have wanted to kill as many Christians as possible. In addition, he apparently attended a seminar there with his mother on at least one occasion. His attacks may have been indirectly linked to a mass murder by a 19 year-old gunman at a mall in Omaha, NE on 2007-DEC-05.
Murray was raised in a deeply religious conservative Christian home. His father, Ronald, is a neurologist who is involved in multiple sclerosis research. His mother, Loretta, was a physical therapist. She quit her career to raise her two sons, Matthew and Chris. At some time between 2003 and 2007 Matthew became disillusioned with Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity -- two movements within conservative Protestantism.
Murray is believed to have frequently posted messages at a forum operated by the Association of Former Pentecostals (AFP) under the username "Chrstngntmr" -- presumably meaning "Christian Nightmare." The AFP is a non-profit group for individuals who have abandoned the Pentecostal or Charismatic movements, and are seeking the support of other individuals going through the same process. The AFP takes a very dim view of these Christian movements, calling them a "new 'scourge' on Christianity," and referring to their alleged "spiritual abuse and manipulation." The AFP states:
"Often, people leaving these faiths feel alone, confused, or doubtful -- feeling that perhaps they've made a mistake. We're here to let you know that you are not alone! Many people have 'walked away' and are living better for it! We hope this site and our resources can be of interest -- and perhaps even some help -- for you. Even if you're already completely 'over' this religion, we hope you'll hang around and help us help others!" 1
Several members of the AFP forum attempted to reach out to Murray. AFP president, Joe Istre, said:
"He appeared to be an isolated person. We tried to tell him to get help, to get some counseling, but he just laughed at it. ... He scared a lot of people in the forum throughout the last few months with some of pretty crazy posts but never anything violent." 2
In his postings, Murray complained about having been home-schooled. He felt that it had prevented him from being able to "socialize normally." He looked upon himself as an outcast who was always left out of things.
After Murray posted a poem titled "Crying all alone in pain in the nightmare of Christianity," Marlene Winell, a psychologist, offered to help him, but was refused. She is the author of a book that helps fundamentalist Christians who leave their faith. 3
He also is believed to have posted messages to the Independent Spirits forum. 4 This is a site devoted to people who feel that they have been negatively affected by the teachings of Bill Gothard and his Institute in Basic Life Principles. 5 The Institute produces an evangelical Christian program used by some home school parents. According to the Associated Press:
"One posting obtained by the AP was to a site called Independent Spirits, a gathering place for those affected by a strict Christian home schooling curriculum."
"The author, again going by the handle Chrstnghtmr, describes going with his mother to a conference at New Life. The poster said he 'got into a debate' with two prayer team staff members, who monitored him, then tracked down his mother and 'told her a story that went something along the lines of I 'wasn't walking with the lord [sic] and could be planning violence'.'" 6
A spokesperson for Matthew's mother denied that this event ever happened. The church has no record of the incident.
Also on Independent Spirits forum Chrstnghtmr said that at the age of 17, after having tried to go "all out for Jesus," he sank into a "dark suicidal depression." He attributed this to not being able to live up to the rules. Medication and attempts at religious healing did not help. He wrote:
"Everyone prayed, they laid hands on me, spoke in tongues over me, I sought out every kind of spiritual help I knew of in charismatic christianity." [sic] 6
In another posting, apparently by Murray, he wrote that after graduation, his options were limited to attending Oral Roberts University, a charismatic Christian university currently undergoing a major internal financial and legal crisis, or what he called a "disciple training school" run by Youth with a Mission. He selected the latter, and attended their local facility located in Arvida, CO, a suburb of Denver.According to Apologetics Index:
"Youth With A Mission is an international, Christian missions organization operating from nearly 600 locations in over 130 countries. The organization includes more than 9,500 long-term staff members, and over 28,500 short-term workers. YWAM is involved in training, evangelism, and mercy ministries.
"...YWAM does lots of good work, the organization is not without its critics. At one time, a CRI fact-sheet pointed out the organization's cultic tendencies (primarily due to the many complaints received about abuses within YWAM's leadership structure). 7
The Associated Press reported that:
"A former YWAM staff member, Michael Werner, told the Rocky Mountain News that Murray was painfully shy and had trouble socializing after growing up sheltered. Later, he exhibited extreme mood swings, spreading rumors about homosexuality at the center and performing dark rock songs by Marilyn Manson and Linkin Park at a 2002 Christmas celebration."
One night, Werner said Murray was chattering to himself and explained he was 'just talking to my voices'." 6
After being ejected from YWAM for unspecified health reasons, he seems to have developed serious doubts about Christianity. He attended some events sponsored by Ad Astra Oasis in Denver. This is a local chapter 8 of the Ordo Templi Orientis, a spiritual group following the Law of Thelema and the writings of Aleister Crowley. They emphasize "...the ideals of individual liberty, self-discipline, self-knowledge, and universal brotherhood." 9 He applied to become a member but was rejected.
A forum posting by DyingChild_65 -- apparently another of Murray's usernames -- stated that all he got out of Christianity was:
"... hate, abuse (sexual, physical, psychological, and emotional), hypocrisy, and lies. ... I'm going out to make a stand for the weak and the defenseless this is for all those young people still caught in the Nightmare of Christianity for all those people who've been abused and mistreated and taken advantage of by this evil sick religion Christian America this is YOUR Columbine." 6
2007-DEC-09: Youth With a Mission Center shootings, Arvida, CO:
Matthew Murray, 24, killed two and injured another two persons at the Youth with a Mission Center in Arvida, CO. He had entered the center office and asked for permission to spend the night there. He was refused, and then opened fire with a handgun.
He killed Tiffany Johnson, 26, who had traveled on missions to Egypt, Libya and South Africa with YWAM. Also killed was Philip Crouse, 24. He had helped build a foster home at a Crow reservation in Montana. Staff members Dan Griebenow, 24, and Charlie Blanch, 22, were wounded. 10
After the shootings at the Center, Murray headed south to Colorado Springs. He posted a message on the AFP forum at 11:03 AM between the two attacks. He used the name "nghtmrchld26."
"You Christians brought this on yourselves. "I'm coming for EVERYONE soon and I WILL be armed to the @#%$ teeth and I WILL shoot to kill."
He copied these words verbatim from the message that Eric Harris used just before he and Dylan Klebold massacred students at Columbine High School in 1999.
Murray also wrote:
"God, I can't wait till I can kill you people. Feel no remorse, no sense of shame, I don't care if I live or die in the shoot-out. All I want to do is kill and injure as many of you ... as I can especially Christians who are to blame for most of the problems in the world." 2