U.S. special envoy on Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke died Dec. 13 at 69 after suffering complications from a torn aorta. Holbrooke, whose long-time diplomatic career included serving as U.S. ambassador to the UN, is often credited for his role in negotiating an end to the Bosnian war through the 1995 Dayton Accords.
A jury found Brian David Mitchell guilty Dec. 10 of kidnapping Elizabeth Smart in 2002 from her Salt Lake City bedroom and holding her hostage for nine months. Mitchell's lawyers had sought to convince jurors that he was not guilty by reason of insanity, a claim the jury ultimately rejected after Smart, 23, testified about her ordeal and detailed repeated rapes, forced drug and alcohol usage, and mental torture. Smart told reporters she hopes her experience will serve as an example "that it is possible to move on after something terrible has happened." Mitchell faces sentencing on May 25.
In an apparent honor killing, unidentified gunmen shot and killed a 17-year-old Somali girl who had converted from Islam to Christianity. Nurta Mohamed Farah reportedly had fled her home and moved in with relatives after suffering repeat beatings, isolation, and other abuse by her parents, who pressured her to recant. Sources believe the gunmen were acting on behalf of the family or relatives.
Theologian Roger Nicole, professor at Gordon Conwell for 41 years and more recently at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, died Dec. 11 at 95. Nicole was associate editor for the New Geneva Study Bible (now the Reformation Study Bible) and an assistant translator for the New International Version Bible. He was a founding member of the Evangelical Theological Society and of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy. He had "such power of mind, clarity of thought, range of knowledge and strength in argument," wrote J.I. Packer in a 2006 biography introduction, while his "patience and courtesy toward the less well favored is a marvel that has become a legend."
Mark Madoff, son of imprisoned stockbroker Bernie Madoff, committed suicide Dec. 11 on the second anniversary of his father's arrest for perpetrating perhaps the largest investment fraud in Wall Street history. Madoff, 46, who along with his brother Andrew once worked at their father's firm, suffered from deep depression over his father's actions and his difficulty finding a new job. Although never criminally charged, Madoff and his wife and young children were also named in lawsuits aimed at recovering funds for Bernie Madoff's victims.
M.A. Thomas, founder of the India-based orphan ministry Hopegivers International, died Dec. 4 at age 74. A native of India, Thomas started the ministry in 1960 and led Hopegivers to help launch more than 70 orphanages and 25,000 churches in India. "All who knew him as Papa-orphans, Bible students and pastors-also need your prayers as they grieve the loss of perhaps the only parent they have ever known," said his son Samuel, CEO of Hopegivers, in a statement following the death.