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The jilted boyfriend who shot dead his ex and her friend before turning the gun on himself outside an Iowa church was arrested for harassing her just days before the massacre.
Jonathan Lee Whitlatch, 33, was arrested on May 31 in Boone County, Iowa, for impersonating a public official and third-degree harassment of Eden Mariah Montang, 22, after she ended their relationship.
Montag was granted a retraining order against him, while Whitlatch posted bond and was scheduled to appear in court June 10.
Two days after his arrest, Whitlatch fatally shot Montang and her friend Vivian Renee Flores, 21, in the parking lot outside Cornerstone Church of Armes, near Des Moines, Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald said. He then turned the gun on himself.
The suspect had also been awaiting trial on a charge of sexual abuse stemming from an incident last October when he twice put his hand down a woman’s pants and attempted to penetrate her at a nightclub in Cedar Falls, according to the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. The alleged victim was not Montang nor Flores.
The incident was caught on surveillance cameras. Whitlatch told authorities he didn’t remember much about the incident because he’d been drinking. Deposition interviews in the case were scheduled to start later this month.
Meanwhile, Montang, 22, a devout Christian and Iowa State University student, had posted about abusive relationships just a week before she was killed.
‘It’s not about who YOU are – how smart you are, or how confident you are – it’s about who THEY are,’ she wrote, ‘The way they make manipulation look like they have your best interest at heart, the way they’re in fact sincere when they are sorry but don’t end up changing their behavior, their abusive upbringing that perpetuates pain. Hurt people – hurt people.’
And on May 11, Montang posted another message: ‘Be careful. Manipulation can feel like love.’
On Friday, her father, Terry Montang, paid tribute to his daughter.
‘I’m proud to have been her father,’ Montang said from the church stage, ‘And I don’t know what more there is to say that she’s with the Lord. And she did her best to walk the walk.’
The attack was the latest deadly shooting to rock the US, following killings in New York, Texas, California and Oklahoma in recent weeks.
A photo of Jonathan Lee Whitlatch and Eden Montang together from Montang’s Facebook profile. Just one week prior to her murder, Montang made a post on Instagram talking about abusive relationships
Jonathan Lee Whitlatch, 33, (left in his mugshot when he was arrested for third-degree harassment and impersonating a public official after a domestic situation), fatally shot, Eden Mariah Montang, 22, (right)and Vivian Renee Flores, 21, in the parking lot outside Cornerstone Church of Armes, near Des Moines, Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald said
Authorities conducted a search of Whitlatch’s residence after the shooting and discovered ammo for the 9MM pistol that had been purchased just an hour prior to the shooting, as well as an AR-15 unrelated to the attack.
Montang and Flores were attending a bible study at Cornerstone Church in Ames, where both went to Iowa State University.
It was a program both were encouraged to attend that co-mingled students with high schoolers. There were 80 people in attendance which led Fitzgerald to suggest that the shooting could have been much worse.
‘He was there for a specific purpose, which he accomplished,’ the sheriff said.
The church held a service to pray for the victims on Friday morning, with several members embracing each other while unable to hold back tears.
Whitlatch and Montang together in a social media photo. Whitlatch murdered Montang with a 9MM pistol following a fallout with her, the local sheriff said at a Friday press conference
Jonathan Whitlatch and Eden Montang pictured with Eden’s father, Terry Montang (far left). Terry spoke in tribute to his daughter at a service on Friday
Whitlatch and Montang together. A search of Whitlatch’s home revealed that the ammunition he used to murder Montang was purchased an hour before the act
Cornerstone Church released a statement confirming that the women killed were ‘young members of our community,’ but did not give other details about the victims or shooter, citing the ongoing police investigation.
‘Our hearts break for all involved, and we are praying for everyone affected, especially the family of the victims,’ the church said in the statement. The church also planned to hold a prayer service for the victims Friday.
The attack came during the Summer Salt, a program for college-aged members, said Lennie.
It is estimated that around 1,300 students gather weekly for the program. Thursday was the first meeting of the summer.
When deputies arrived on scene they found all three dead, Lennie said, adding he could not provide identities nor disclose what the relationship between them may have been.
‘This appears to be an isolated, single-shooter incident,’ Lennie said. Lennie told the Des Moines Register that he was ‘shocked’ by the shooting a member of ‘law enforcement.’
The shooting took place at Cornerstone Church of Armes (pictured), near Des Moines
People mourn in the Cornerstone Church parking lot Friday morning, June 3, 2022 in Ames, Iow
The church held a service to pray for the victims on Friday morning, with several members embracing each other while unable to hold back tears
People embrace outside the Cornerstone Church after the shooting on Thursday. Two members of the church were killed by a gunman in the parking lot
Story Country Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald, right, and Story County Chief Deputy Nicholas Lennie provide more information about the shooting at Ames’ Cornerstone Church
‘We prepare and we train hard for this, but when it happens, it’s obviously chaotic until you get it under control,’ he told the Des Moines Register.
‘I would also like to take a moment to just extend our condolences to those involved, the victims involved, the families, the witnesses that were here at the church.’
DailyMail.com has attempted to contact the Sherriff’s Office and church for comment.
The church said it was ‘saddened’ by the event in a statement on its Facebook page, writing: ‘Our hearts break for all involved, and we are praying for everyone affected, especially the family of the victims.
The Salt Company, which hosts the weekly program, said: ‘We are grieving deeply. Tonight, a tragic shooting occurred involving two young members of our Cornerstone Church community. It is believed that an adult male shot these two victims and then took his own life.’
The church said it was ‘saddened’ and ‘heartbroken’ about the event in a statement
Vance declined to give further details about the incident, citing the ongoing investigation.
Churchgoers reportedly remained on the grounds and inside the church for hours after the shooting, and photos from the scene showed groups of people hugging one another in tears.
In a tweet, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds characterized the shooting as ‘senseless violence.’
‘Tonight’s act of senseless violence took the lives of two innocent victims at their place of worship. Kevin and I grieve for the families who have suffered an unfathomable loss.’
The shooting is the latest in a string of mass-shootings that have plagued the US in recent weeks.
On May 14, an 18-year old white supremacist, Payton Gendron, murdered 10 people inside a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, with an assault rifle.
Then on May 24, another 18-year-old shooter murdered 19 elementary school students and two teachers at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
The following holiday weekend there were at least 14 ‘mass shootings’ across the US according to the Gun Violence Archive, an institute tracking shootings in the country.
On June 1, 45-year old Michael Louis shot four people dead at the Saint Francis Hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He was targeting a doctor he blamed for his chronic back pain.
In a rare evening address on Thursday, President Biden characterized American communities as ‘killing fields,’ while calling for a ban on assault weapons.
‘Enough, enough. It’s time for each of us to do our part,’ the president said, ‘For the children we’ve lost. For the children we can save. For the nation we love. Let’s meet the moment. Let us finally do something.’