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This week's death of a prominent persecution ministry leader is now being described as a possible suicide in the wake of a molestation investigation by local police.

Tom White, executive director of The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM), was found dead Wednesday morning in a warehouse at the ministry's headquarters in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, according to Tulsa CBS affiliate News on 6. Court records indicate that Bartlesville police were investigating a molestation allegation against White, according to News on 6.

VOM responded to the allegations Friday afternoon with this statement:

April 20, 2012 The Voice of the Martyrs statement concerning the death of Tom White:
The events of the last week are tragic. On Wednesday we learned that Tom White, VOM's executive director, had died.
Allegations were made to authorities this week that Tom had inappropriate contact with a young girl. Rather than face those allegations, and all of the resulting fallout for his family and this ministry and himself, Tom appears to have chosen to take his own life.
None of those in leadership at VOM, including our board of directors, were aware of these allegations at the time of Tom's death.
There is no doubt that Tom cared about his wife, his children and his grandchildren. And there's no doubt that he cared about VOM.
We are deeply saddened by these events. Our hearts are broken.
However, the work that God has called VOM to do is bigger than any one of us. There are persecuted Christians who need our help. The legal process will go forward, and we will continue serving with our persecuted brothers and sisters.
We appreciate the many who are praying for our work, and we encourage you to join us in praying for Tom's family during this difficult time.
A letter from VOM's president will be posted on our web site, www.Persecution.com, next week.

White, 65, rose to prominence in persecution circles after releasing a 1982 memoir detailing his 17 months spent in a Cuban prison. He led VOM to solid growth over the past 20 years.

"He admired persecuted believers who endured hardship and possessed an eternal perspective about their faith," Gary Lane, a former spokesperson for VOM now at CBN wrote this week. "Tom worked tirelessly to share their experiences with the world. He truly was a voice of the martyrs."

VOM will release a more-detailed response to White's death on Monday. It posted this announcement regarding White's death on Wed:

"It is with great sadness that The Voice of the Martyrs announces the death of our Executive Director, Tom White. Tom led The Voice of the Martyrs for more than 20 years, including years of incredible growth in the ministry's reach to support and work with persecuted Christians and to share their stories with the American Church. Prior to taking leadership of the ministry he worked alongside VOM's founders, Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand. All of our hearts are heavy at this loss, and most of all heavy for Ofelia, Tom's loyal help-mate through years of ministry, including 17 months he spent in a Cuban prison, and for his children and grandchildren."

(This article may be updated as events warrant.)


Related Elsewhere:

The Voice of the Martyrs statement is available on the organization's site.

In 2009, a Christianity Today infographic charted the different international religious liberty advocates.

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Voice of the Martyrs' Tom White's Death an Apparent Suicide Following ...