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This article was written on 20 Sep 2013, and is filled under TWiM Archives.

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A Mormon Missionary Is Murdered in Mexico – All Quiet from Salt Lake

Elder Peter Allen Maughan of Issaquah, Washington, a Mormon missionary, was found dead by his companion, Elder Pablo Francisco Rodríguez Alanís in their apartment on September 15  in the small Veracruz village of Tlacojalpan. Maughan was bound with cords and had a plastic bag over his head when he was found. It is being called a murder, but some have not ruled out suicide.

Sources are conflicted right now about how this happened. Some say that Rodríguez went out to grab lunch and the perpetrators arrived during the interim. Others say that Rodríguez went elsewhere in the apartment to grab lunch and then took a shower. Authorities theorize that more than one person could have been involved. Rodríguez has been held as a precautionary measure, but no charges have been levied.

Oddly, there’s just radio silence from Salt Lake. This Week in Mormons has contacted the Public Affairs department of the Church, but has yet to receive a comment. Admittedly, it is strange that when dealing with the other numerous missionary deaths over the past year, the Church has been pretty public about things, but all of these have been accidents or medical tragedies. We understand the Church treading lightly in the wake of a murder investigation, but it s certainly disconcerting that this happened five days ago and there hasn’t even been acknowledgement from Salt Lake.

But Elder Maughan’s profile has already been pulled. View a cached version of it here.

We’ll keep you updated here with further details as they come to light. In the meantime, here are some links, the majority of which are in Spanish.

Update – Sept 23, 2013 – 12:30 PM MST

Thanks to those of you who have left constructive comments. We weep together with the family of this lost missionary. It is a terrible tragedy and our hearts are with those most closely affected.

Some new information argues that Elder Maughan had shingles and his medication gave him suicidal tendencies. Allegedly the Mexican authorities refuse to release the body.

Update – 1:00 PM MST

More speculation on suicide. A source has had contact with Peggy Fletcher Stack, who said it was her understanding the death was the result of suicide, the Salt Lake Tribune doesn’t cover suicides. Still no word from Church HQ.

Geoff Openshaw


Geoff Openshaw is an international development consultant as well as the Managing Editor and Executive Producer of the This Week in Mormons podcast. He is a graduate of the University of Edinburgh and Brigham Young University and loves all sorts of nerdy geopolitical stuff. He also writes and performs music and really, really loves Del Taco.

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  • Ryan Anderson

    So sad. I hadn’t even heard that this had happened.

    • BlueGrayGnatCatcher

      There is now news or official announcement. It is all hushed.

  • Jared Lopez

    SLC is quiet because this story just adds to the garment failure theme I’ve been hearing about on YouTube and doesn’t fit the “he was needed by the Lord to preach the gospel in spirit prison” theme they try to twist every time a missionary dies. What a way for the Lord to kill off a missionary he needed on the otherside?

  • Mary McLaughlin

    Jared, we live in a world where people are free to choose to follow Christ or to follow Satan. This freedom is a great gift from a loving Father in Heaven. Some times the wicked choices of others cause pain, suffering, and even death to some who are righteous followers of Christ. This has always been the case. Many prophets were killed because they taught faith, repentance, and baptism as a path to taking upon oneself Christ’s name and finding the way to eternal life. Even Christ himself was crucified by people who did not recognize the very Messiah they had desperately been seeking. And so we see, God will not take away man’a agency, even when righteous good people are hurt and even killed by the choices of others. Luckily, we have the knowledge that this is not our home and if we live righteously, we will find great peace and happiness in the life to come. We will be surrounded by family and all will be made right because of the atonement of Christ. I thank my Heavenly Father for this knowledge especially at this time as I mourn the passing of a wonderful young man like Peter Maugham.

    • Oblio11

      Life as a mormon missionary made him very depressed

      • Mary McLaughlin

        If Peter was struggling with depression, my heart goes out to him and his family. The work of a missionary is very demanding and my heart aches for people that are combating anxiety and depression. My own life has been full of people that I love with this particular battle and I know that it is real and very very difficult. I will continue to remember Peter’s family,, and the many missionaries serving in the Veracruz mission, in my thoughts and prayers. I know he was greatly loved and he will be missed.

        • BlueGrayGnatCatcher

          It is very, very boring and mundane.

      • Katy

        Peter was not depressed as the result of his mission. He had contracted an illness while in Mexico and was medicated for it. One of the side effects of his medication was depression and suicidal tendencies. Don’t speculate on something you don’t know.

        • Jared Lopez

          Sent from my iPad

        • Wyatt Earp

          Sure, I won’t speculate… What are your sources of information? Provide them or you’re just speculating in your apologia…

          A little critical thought and deductive reasoning. Depression is a disease. It makes you sick. Particularly at the age of mishies , you can have new onset of symptoms of depression and other psychiatric diseases. Depression is treated with SSRI antidepressants SOMETIMES. Paxil is a SSRI antidepressant that leads to suicidal ideation in youth. However, the actual incidence is very low and gets lower as you get older.

          Paxil is an older member of the SSRI class of anti-depressant and is used to treat social anxiety and OCD. There are much better drugs that can be used to treat depression, so Paxil isn’t used for that much in the US. In Mexico, I don’t know.

          I see criminal/civil negligence swirling all over this.

        • Oblio11

          “He had contracted an illness while in Mexico and was medicated for it.” So being on a mission led to his death. Isn’t that what I said? Katy hasn’t been back to answer Wyatt. Katy, where did you go on a mission? I went to one that at the time was considered the hardest in the world. You’re gonna have a hard time talking down to me. We had people arrive in the field, go catatonic, and then get sent back to the states. Don’t speculate on something you don’t know.

        • BlueGrayGnatCatcher

          He must have already had suicidal tendencies for the medication to affect him.

          • MissingPeter

            He wasn’t suicidal!

      • Jared

        I agree. It was like lord of flies. A bunch of punk kids with abusing the authority as zone leaders and assistants “bestowed to them by The Lord”. Have we heard anything from SLC about this? No, because it is a PR nightmare.

      • BlueGrayGnatCatcher

        I agree.

    • Wyatt Earp


      I am sorry but I don’t think Thomas S. Monsom himself would get up and call this guy a prophet. He was a child, called to do the duty of man, in a place where life is cheap and drugs rule the day.

      “if we live righteously, we will find great peace and happiness in the life to come.”

      Are you assuming that Elder Maughan’s wasn’t and that’s why he was killed? I am curious, has everyone in your family got their second anointing?

    • Jared

      That still doesn’t answer why the Brethren are mum on this one. It’s a PR nightmare. SLC needs missionaries more than ever so they can pay for the fuel for their jets, to fund their inflated living stipends, and to fill the financial hole that resulted from the $5 billion mall. Monson’s gonna be the financial ruin to the church. I don’t think the mythical satan has anything to do with this… Btw, you sound like a drone. My dads a patriarch so I’m quite used to the flowery mormon speak.

    • BlueGrayGnatCatcher

      Blah, blah, blah …a little preachy?

  • Wyatt Earp

    I am confused, is the “don’t get more than 2 meters away from your companion not enforced in his mission?

    If this was a suicide, did he bind himself and place plastic bag over his head before or after he killed himself?

    One of the missionaries in my area is serving with a fractured hand. Even though I threw a fit and got the president in on it, he refuses to do anything about it. If this is reflective of the healthcare provided during missions, (the presidents wife, a retired floor nurse okayed an x-ray, but he still refuses to do anything, he thinks it will make him unworthy or something), in the US; I can’t imagine what it must be like in Mexico.

    Unless the assailant was huge and could control Maughn, this type of blitz attack would take 2-3 people. I find it suspicious that his Mexican companion was, somehow, absent during the event. I would consider Maughan’s refusal to participate in a criminal enterprise to get drugs into the US might have been the motive…

    • BlueGrayGnatCatcher

      I agree. Peter was very large and athletic.

  • FZR

    Just to info the people on this site. NONE of you know why or how. But as a cousin to him, all I can say is let him rest in peace.
    For the ones thinking he was murdered, the only true way of knowing this is “you would have to of been there watching”.
    Stop the rumors…. Unless you know the truth!
    Unfortunatly, no one will ever know.

    • BlueGrayGnatCatcher

      No one will ever know? Forensic science would be able to reveal the reason why he died. If murdered, he would be bruised or be poisoned. His companion was exonerated.

      • FZR

        The bad thing about it, it was ruled suicide. Ok, if that’s what they ruled it as, then why are they still investigating the case?
        Still, no one knows anything.

  • bb4ever

    My son is on a mission with one of his friends. I think the reason why you have heard very little is that the family requests it. Maybe it would be a good thing to respect that instead of dragging his name out every time you would like to point to a conspiracy theory. No conspiracy here, just a grieving family. Respect the family’s wishes.

    • G-Off

      Who’s pointing to conspiracy theories? It’s tragic that anything happens to the Lord’s missionaries. The family and loved ones certainly deserve their grief, but the body of saints throughout the Church also deserve to be made aware of it.

    • Jared

      You expect me to believe that the reason the church isn’t giving fair warning about this to other families that are sending their children to dangerous countries is because the family of the dead missionary requested it?! I don’t believe that for a second. SLC sees this as first and foremost a PR disaster. Members have a right to know that this occurred (along with the 10 or more other missionary deaths this year)… Even when murders more gruesome (suspected or not) occur here in the states the media and law enforcement don’t keep quiet to respect the family’s wishes because the public has a right to know and the same goes for mothers in the church who are about to send their young, immature children to some foreign country.

    • BlueGrayGnatCatcher

      It could possibly be the shame and guilt built around suicide. I think suicide is better dealt with out in the open and honestly. If there is a problem, the first step is recognition.

  • ClearThinker

    Very sad. Maughan’s death won’t be the last involving a Mormon mishie, that’s for certain.

    When I was a naive, young Mormon at age 19, I was sent by the Mormon Church to impoverished and terrorism-plagued Peru, where I was nearly died twice.

    The first time was because the mission prez. (MP) assigned me to a filthy shantytown on the north side of the capital, Lima. After just ten days of marketing LD$ Inc.’s message to the locals amid rotting piles of garbage, holes in the ground for toilets, and parasite-infested water, I contracted spinal meningitis.

    After being hospitalized in a “clinica”, the MP asked me if I had insurance coverage (so that the multi-billion-dollar LD$ Church wouldn’t be out of pocket for my healthcare expenses, of course). Then, he lied to me about what the medical staff had found out about my grave condition. Why? So that I wouldn’t report the truth to my mother, a medical professional (he’d learned that fact during our initial interview). She might insist that I come home to recuperate and he unilaterally decided that I would remain in Peru.

    He later put me in an even more dismal shantytown on the edge of the northern Peruvian desert. There, I was attacked by a knife-wielding bandit who had targeted my smaller companion. The assailant, who I found out later was part of a local, murderous gang, d*mn near sliced my throat open.

    While the ‘true’ corporation of Je$u$ Chri$t wasn’t interested in ensuring that its mishie “army”, including myself, was properly taken care off, it was quite willing to spend millions of dollars on a luxurious temple in one of the richest neighborhoods of Lima, La Molina. There, impoverished Latter-day Saints who had traveled for hours or days could learn about Mormon temple ‘worship’, including the ‘holy’ endowment “penalty” (“… I will never reveal the first token of the Melchizedek priesthood, or Sign of the Nail, with its accompanying name, sign, and penalty. Rather than do so, I would suffer my life to be taken.”). How ironic!

    • Jared

      Thank you for your beautiful testimony, Brother Thinker. When I was in the dangerous area of south side Jamaica Queens New York my Russian companion and I got mugged at gunpoint… Of course the MP swept it under the rug. He, like most MPs, was working towards being promoted to the Quorum of the Seventy.

  • Count Zeppelin

    I suspect the Church wants this more than anything to be a suicide, otherwise the Church is culpable for his murder, sending him to a known location where hostage taking and murder is commonplace, especially for North Americans with money.

    Year-after-year, the State Department issues travel warnings to American citizens going to Mexico. The most recent was issued July 13, 2013.

    Crime and violence are serious problems and can occur anywhere. U.S. citizens have fallen victim to criminal activity, including homicide, gun battles, kidnapping, carjacking and highway robbery. While most of those killed in narcotics-related violence have been members of TCOs, innocent persons have also been killed. The number of U.S. citizens reported to the Department of State as murdered in Mexico was 113 in 2011 and 71 in 2012.

  • Tornogal

    I think Mormonism is a horrible fraud, but my feelings about it aside, I sincerely hope the family can find peace in this tragedy. I cannot imagine the pain they are going through.

  • Terry Hess

    My family and I are close friends to Mary and her son Peter. This was not a suicide! Any one who was close to Peter knew the kind of young man he was. He was not one to commit suicide, it’s an insult to him and the things which he believed in. Peter was a gentle giant, with a heart that matched. He loved people, he loved his mom and would not have caused her any pain ever!!! Peter honored his priesthood and had a strong testimony of the gospel. He loved his Father in Heaven and the Savior. Peter always followed what was right and true. So for Peggy Fletcher Stack to make the comment that she did was out of line and uncalled for.

    • G-Off

      It’s a strange story. Do you have any insights about what happened or why the Church hasn’t even acknowledged it?

      • Terry Hess

        The church will not make any statement right now since this is an open investigation. They will wait until more information is available. We just buried Peter today, it was a beautiful funeral and burial. We ask for everyone for their prayers to be with Peters beautiful mom Mary. This naturally has been devastating to her and the rest of the family and friends who knew and loved Peter.

        • BlueGrayGnatCatcher

          Is the investigation still pending? I saw a Mexican newspaper that has exonerated his companion who was initially a suspect. In SLC articles, there is a list of 11 or 12 deceased missionaries but Peter is not included.

  • Lisa Anderson

    I hope the church will train the missionaries on how to deal with the hatred toward Americans that they feel from their companions once they arrive in their missions. If you dont acknowledge a problem then maybe it will go away. After what we have been through with our son and the situation he is in with his companion in Mexico I can see this as a very big issue that should be addressed.

    • Kim Bolick

      Lisa what mission is your son in? My son was Elder Maughan’s companion before this happened with the Mexican companion and I have heard a lot about how the Americans are treated. It is sad when everyone just expects our boys to tough it out no matter what the hardships are. My son’s heart is broken over this and there are still no answers.

      • Elder Old Dog

        Kim Bolick, I hope Disqus pings you… Did you ever hear anything more about what really happened? A number of us are curious as to the actual facts of what happened. We wonder about the shroud of silence regarding this missionary death, as well as so many others.

        • MissingPeter

          There is more to this then the church will reveal because they are too busy trying to cover their tracks. They are “hiding the ball” on this one. And there are still no answers. Today Peter would have been 21 years old. I miss him every day!

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