Gang members in Honduras reportedly stabbed a female pastor to death last Thursday after earlier demanding that she pay a "war tax" to ensure her church's safety.
Maria Francisca Sevilla, 39, was a mother of three who co-pastored the Church of God for Life Ministry in the city of Choloma alongside her husband, Geovanny.
She and her family had apparently repeatedly been victimized by local gang leaders over the past year, yet decided to continue ministering in the face of danger, according to a report from Church of God World Missions, an organization that supports Christian missionaries.
Soldiers look at a burnt-out bus in the northern outskirts of Tegucigalpa, on March 24, 2014. Youth gangs charge a "war tax" to taxis and buses in Honduras. (ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/Getty Images)
The group claims that Sevilla was murdered inside her home, a residence attached to the church, by two young gang members who previously demanded that she and her family pay a "tax" for their protection.
The deadly assault reportedly took place after she returned home from taking her children to school. Sevilla was apparently stabbed repeatedly as she attempted to fight off her attackers; she died before help arrived.
"The woman tried to defend herself, but unfortunately was attacked with knives by criminals," Hector Ruiz, deputy commissioner of the National Police, told Honduras' Diario el Heraldo, according to a translation.
Authorities claim that the Sevilla family was harassed by gang members last year; the criminals threatened to hurt the couples' children unless they were compensated. It is unclear whether a failure to pay the so-called "war tax" was a definitive motivation in Sevilla's murder.
A investigation agent inspects a bus which was burnt with its driver in the northern outskirts of Tegucigalpa, on March 24, 2014. Youth gangs charge a "war tax" to taxis and buses in Honduras. (ORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/Getty Images)
The husband and wife along with one of their children were captured and beaten in November 2013, and during a separate incident, Geovanny Sevilla was tied up and nearly killed by the same group, according to Church of God World Missions.
"This dedicated couple, who ministered in their church for 10 years, could have moved away for safety, according to what I have been told, but they felt called to the city, and they remained even though they were in danger," Tim Hill, director of Church of God World Missions, said in a statement.
Gang violence in Honduras has been making headlines of late, as criminals regularly threaten residents and business owners unless they pay a "protection" or "war tax."