AMMAN, Jordan – A Jordanian teenager stabbed to death a Texas missionary living in the kingdom during an argument that broke out when she caught him stealing from her apartment, police said Friday.
The 17-year-old confessed to the Tuesday night killing of Cheryll Harvey, 55, in her fourth floor apartment in the town of Barha north of the capital Amman, police official Abdul Wali Shakhanbeh said.
Harvey, a native of Sudan, Texas, had been teaching English in Jordan for the past 24 years, according to police records. The U.S.-based Baptist Press said her teaching was in connection with the Jordan Baptist Society. Church officials did not answer repeated calls for comment.
Violent crime is rare in Jordan, a country closely controlled by the security forces and with tight-knit family connections.
Shakhanbeh said the suspect used to accompany his father, a maintenance worker, to Harvey's apartment for repair work. He then started coming regularly to help her with chores and bring her groceries, receiving payment.
On Tuesday, the boy came to her house and wanted to steal money, the policeman said. "When she found him looking through her purse in her bedroom, she began to shout at him."
"He was scared the neighbors would hear her screaming. So, he grabbed a knife from the kitchen and stabbed her 10 times, including three fatal wounds to her neck," he added. The boy then took Harvey's car keys, locked the apartment door, leaving her body lying in the living room, he said. No money or other items were found missing.
He said neighbors and friends called police to say Harvey was missing.
Shakhanbeh said the boy could not be named until he is put on trial for premeditated murder. No trial date has been set, he added.
Adult convicts are usually sentenced to death, but juveniles usually receive a lighter sentence of life in jail.
"This is a tragic incident involving a woman who had considerable respect and admiration and great achievements in her host community," Shakhanbeh said.
Harvey's brother, Dennis Harvey, of Lubbock, Texas, said he and his older sister had never talked about safety concerns in the Middle Eastern country.
"I know everybody was always asking her about that," Dennis Harvey said Friday. "I know she felt safe over there. It's a big city."
He described his sister, who he last spoke with about a week ago, as soft-spoken and strong-willed.
"She had a definite determination to accomplish what she was going to accomplish," Dennis Harvey said.
Harvey grew up and graduated from high school in Sudan, about 50 miles northwest of Lubbock, said the Rev. Robert Roecker, of the First Baptist Church in Sudan.
She earned an undergraduate and two master's degrees in education, and Roecker said she taught briefly at Sudan's elementary school before she "determined that was not her calling, that she felt called to mission."
Roecker said Harvey was a member of his church until 1985 and had spoken to his congregation about three times in the past 11 years. He described her as a "bright woman" and said friends have told him that while Harvey was soft-spoken, she "was strong as steel on the inside."
It was not immediately clear whether Harvey would be buried in Jordan, or if her body would be repatriated to the United States. Dennis Harvey said plans as of Friday were to have his sister's funeral or memorial service at Roecker's church on Sept. 15.
The U.S. Embassy in Jordan expressed its condolences, spokesman Silvio Gonzalez said.
Blaney reported from Lubbock, Texas. Associated Press reporter Dale Gavlak in Amman contributed to this report.