Zimbabwe judge dismisses case against Southern Baptist worker

7/27/1999HARARE, Zimbabwe (BP) -- Alicia L. Farnham, a Southern Baptist International Service Corps missionary in Zimbabwe, was acquitted July 19 of culpable homicide in a case stemming from a May 16, 1998, automobile accident in which one person died. A magistrate in Harare, Zimbabwe, dismissed the case because the prosecutor presented no evidence of any wrongdoing, said Barry Robinson, another International Mission Board missionary in Zimbabwe. Farnham's defense lawyer did not even have to present his case on her behalf. Farnham, of McComb, Miss., was transporting four women and a seminary student to a coronation service for a girls' missionary organization when a car driven by a prominent businessman apparently pulled out in front of her. When Farnham swerved to avoid a collision, her car rolled over, killing one of the women. The businessman has since died from injuries received in another traffic accident. Farnham, 37, was scheduled to complete her two-year International Service Corps assignment in theological education by extension on Aug. 1. The decision frees her to return to the United States without any complications. She is the third Southern Baptist missionary in Africa to face charges in traffic fatalities, which are extremely common on the continent. Gene Phillips, an emeritus missionary serving a volunteer stint in Lesotho, was freed with a small fine and suspended sentence on one count of negligence after a June 2 traffic accident in which a pedestrian was killed. Mike Hutchinson, a missionary in West Africa, is awaiting trial on a charge of involuntary manslaughter arising from a April 20 accident in Senegal in which a teen-age boy stepped in front of Hutchinson's vehicle without looking. There seems to be no indication from authorities that Hutchinson was at fault. Hutchinson was the subject of a false e-mail rumor circulated worldwide that he was the victim of a mob action and in danger of being hanged. Hutchinson's missionary colleagues expect the charges to be dismissed.

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