The case of Gregory Nathan Peterson, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints charged with 23 felonies involving four victims including seven counts of rape, three counts of object rape, two counts of aggravated kidnapping, nine counts of forcible sexual abuse, forcible sodomy, assault, burglary and sexual battery, has abruptly ended with disturbing finality. On October 23rd, 2012, Peterson was found dead in his cabin in Heber City, Utah. Suicide is suspected. Peterson was also facing one count of forcible sexual abuse involving a fifth victim in Wasatch County. KSL news video embedded below (looks like they changed their embed code, eliminated user-defined size, and shrunk the default size):
Peterson had just posted $2 million bail on October 19th with the help of All Out Bonds. But because Peterson's ankle monitor was not registering properly, a bail bondsman was dispatched to check on him. The bondsman entered the cabin located about eight miles east of Heber City in an area called Timberlake Estates, and found Peterson dead with a gunshot wound to the head. Multiple weapons were found inside the cabin. Peterson's attorney also had been unable to reach him.
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said his office and the Wasatch County Attorney's Office filed charges against Peterson because they felt they had strong cases. "This was an important case to us, it was an important case to our victims. We've always felt very comfortable with the basis of our charges and this is just a tragic end in this respect. We believed our victims and we believed in the strength of our case and that's why we filed it. This was an important case to us, it was an important case to our victims. We've always felt very comfortable with the basis of our charges and this is just a tragic end in this respect", explained Gill.
Meanwhile, Peterson's attorneys, Jerry Salcido and Cara Tangaro, said that his family is in mourning and that Peterson always maintained his innocence and was confident that a jury would acquit him. He felt the media reporting was one-sided. Peterson was an enterpreneur, a member of the LDS Church, and a prominent GOP activist and fundraiser, as described in this previous post. His suicide would tend to speak louder than his protestations of innocence. Information on Church doctrine and policy on suicides is available after the jump.
What does the LDS Church officially believe about suicide? In October 1987, Elder M. Russell Ballard addressed this issue in an Ensign article entitled "Suicide: Some Things We Know, and Some We Do Not". He admitted it was a complex issue, and urged people to avoid being judgmental. In the final analysis, Elder Ballard wrote:
I believe the Lord will consider each case separately and judge the circumstances of each individual. I have sincerely sought direction from our Father in Heaven to help me understand the nature of suicide. And I have come to know, as well as anything else that I know from God, that these people have a place in the kingdom of our Father, and it is not one of darkness or despair, but one where they can receive comfort and experience serenity.
We cannot measure these particular spiritual experiences, of course. We do not know the extent to which the door is open for these particular people to grow and develop in righteousness until they possibly receive the blessings of exaltation. They committed a very serious sin, and some consequences of it may remain with them throughout eternity. Only our Father in Heaven knows the full answer to the questions our hearts ask regarding those who take their own lives.
According to the Church Handbook of Instructions, Volume 1 (CHI-1), on page 23, para 3.7.8, LDS members who need them may have temple ordinances performed for them one year or more after their death, unless they were excommunicated or had their names removed at the time of their death. Since Peterson had not pleaded guilty or had been convicted at the time of his death, there's no reason to believe he has been excommunicated.
Page 167, para 17.3.14 of CHI-1 also states that Church facilities may be used for the funeral services of a presumably worthy member who has committed suicide, and that the member, if endowed, may be buried in temple clothing.