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Suspect in kidnapping, murders had been a volunteer at church

A man charged with kidnapping and fatally shooting two teen-agers was a church volunteer who taught stories and Bible verses to children, acquaintances said.

Robert Kay, 24, helped coordinate a recreation and Bible discussion program for 4-year-olds to fifth-graders at MacGregor Baptist Church in this town outside Fort Myers, said church administrator Richard Tatro.

"We were all very shocked" to learn of Kay's arrest Sunday on kidnapping and first-degree murder charges, he said.

Three teen-agers sneaked away while camping outside the home of one. They were abducted at gunpoint, forced into a car trunk and taken to a tent in the woods, where they were subjected to "bizarre interviews" for hours before being shot, police said.

Nathan Goldsberry, 13, and Irish Mullins, 15, were killed. Chris Stricklin, 14, shot three times, was listed in satisfactory condition Tuesday at Southwest Florida Regional Medical Center.

Kay was arrested in 1987 on a burglary charge, according to court records. He pleaded guilty in 1988 and was placed on probation for 15 years.

Acquaintances said he lived with his grandmother, worked with computers, had served in the junior ROTC and liked camping and target shooting.

His father, Peter Kay, described him as a non-violent person who loved to read, especially science fiction, had few friends and joined a church group looking for companions his age.

The victims had met Kay through another youth before Sunday, Lee County sheriff's spokeswoman Gerry Poole said.

Police would not discuss a possible motive. They were investigating the role of a second man who was present during the boys' abduction but apparently played no role in their deaths. The man's name has not been released and no charges have been filed against him.

For the boys, all from Lehigh Acres, it began as a quest for adventure during a sleepover at Irish's home Saturday night.

Irish's father Timothy Mullins said he and the boys had watched wrestling on television that night. He went to bed and later asked the boys, who were wrestling around, to settle down.

"I just went in and told them to be quiet, and that's the last I saw of them," he said.

The three friends stuffed their beds to make it look like they were still home. Kay allegedly abducted the boys about a mile from Mullins' home.

He threatened the teens at gunpoint, bound and gagged them and forced them in his trunk, according to police reports.

Riverdale High School students who went to school with Irish told principal Bob Durham that Irish knew Kay, a 1986 graduate of the same school.

Irish's grandmother, Carolyn Mullins, said the three boys apparently were forced to clean the camp site and Kay tried to make them cry.

"They were standing there crying and begging," Ms. Mullins said. "Irish wouldn't cry, so he shot him first."