UPwe 01/12 0225 Cult-slayings detailed
SAN DIEGO (UPI) -- A court affidavit gives chilling details of the
ritualistic killing and burial of a Kirtland family at the hands of cult
leader and self-proclaimed prophet Jeffrey Don Lundgren.
Lundgren, 39, his wife, Alice Elizabeth, 38, and son Damon, 19 and 10
others have been charged in the shooting deaths of Dennis Avery, 49, his
wife Cheryl, 42, and three daughters, Trina, 15, Rebecca 13, and Karen, 6.
The Averys were allegedly killed execution-style with a .45-caliber
pistol in a barn on a Kirtland farm, April 17. The next day Lundgren led
his flock from the Cleveland-area to West Virginia, and later Missouri.
Police, acting on a tip, found the bodies Jan. 3-4.
Agent Richard Van Haelst of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms
office in Kansas City said in an affidavit filed in El Cajon Municipal
Court he interviewed cult members who gave him "detailed descriptions of
Van Haelst also said Lundgren had admitted to the killings.
The cult members "advised me that Lundgren was known to carry firearms
on a routine basis, and in particular had an affinity for the firearm he
used in the execution-style slaying," Van Haelst said.
One member Van Haelst interviewed saw Lundgren shoot one person, Van
Others "helped carry the bodies to the grave that had been prepared in
advance and were leaving the little room where the executions occurred when
they heard the shot and then subsequently saw the bodies in the grave," Van
The court affidavit did not identify the cult members Van Haelst
interviewed. The affidavit was filed in order to get a search warrant
before searching a room at the Sante Fe Motel in National City, Calif., on
Lundgren, his wife and oldest son were at the motel before their arrest
Lundgren left the Kirtland Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter
Day Saints two years ago, urging other church members to join him on a
nearby farm. He apparently took their money and trained his members in
paramilitary training and target practice as well as Bible studies.
The Averys were killed as a kind of spiritual cleansing to prepare the
group for its trek to the wilderness, salvation and the second coming of
Christ, investigators have said.
ATF agents got another search warrant Sunday after finding a business
card for a storage locker rented by Lundgren.
Agent R. Scott Parkhurst of the San Diego office said in an affidavit
for that search that Lundgren's wife, who called herself "Liz," told agents
there were firearms, ammunition and survival gear in the locker. The agent
referred to Liz Lundgren as a cooperating suspect.
During Thursday's news conference, ATF agents showed rifles, handguns,
swords and ammunition taken from the locker, the Lundgren's National City
motel room, and a motel room in Chula Vista, Calif. where cult members
Kathryn Johnson and Daniel Kraft Jr. stayed over the weekend.
ATF agent Andrew Vita said, "They had plenty of ammunition to ward off
Agents also took a purple flag with a white, seven-sided star and the
red outline of an eagle, believed to be worn as a vestment during religious
At the Kirtland farm authorities have collected a "massive amount of
property, trash and debris," a court affidavit said.
Lake County Prosecutor Steven LaTourette has asked the court to seal
"We'd like to go through it without the glare of publcity," LaTourette
UPce 01/11 1802 Fugitive's parents relieved at his arrest
KIRTLAND, Ohio (UPI) -- The father and stepmother of Daniel Kraft, one
of 13 people charged in the ritualistic slayings of a family of five, blame
themselves for failing to remove their son forcibly from a bizarre
Kraft, 25, was captured Wednesday in a remote section of San Diego
County, Calif., with Kathryn Johnson, the last two of 13 alleged cult
members to remain at large.
A sheriff's deputy spotted the pair Wednesday afternoon in a pickup
truck owned by the cult's leader, Jeffrey Lundgren.
David and Joan Kraft of Nauvoo, Ill., told the Lake County News Herald
in an interview published Thursday that they still love their son, but wish
they could have done more to help him.
"We could have save Danny from this tragedy and brought him home before
all of this happened," Joan Kraft, his stepmother, said.
Kraft, along with Lundgren and three others, faces five counts of
aggravated murder with death penalty specifications, and five counts of
The bodies of Dennis Avery, 48, his wife, Cheryl, 41, and their
daughters, Trina, 15, Rebecca, 13, and Karen, 7, were recovered last week
from a grave inside a barn in a rural area east of Cleveland. Authorities
say they were shot and killed last April, after their hands and mouths were
covered with duct tape.
Mrs. Kraft remembers urging her husband to forcibly remove their son
from a remote campsite in Davis, W.Va., to which Lundgren and his followers
went shortly after the Averys were killed.
Kraft said he met with his son in July, trying to convince him to return
home. But the son told his father he and other cult members were studying
the Book of Mormon, firmly believing they would see Jesus.
But Kraft said he told his son: "Dan, I truly believe that no one will
see the Lord while they are still alive."
"Danny truly felt he would see Jesus," Mrs. Kraft said. "It squeezed my
husband's heart, but he said that he had to show his trust in his own son."
The son told his father he would come home in 45 days, but he never
Kraft grew up as a Protestant in the small rural town of Nauvoo, the
site where Joseph Smith -- founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints -- was slain in the 1840s. Mrs. Kraft said there was an
archaeological dig at Mormon historical sites in Nauvoo in the early 1980s,
where she believes her stepson met Lundgren.
On July 4, 1985, Lundgren was baptized into the Reorganized Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Kirtland, where the church has a
temple built in the 1830s. Lundgren broke away from the church in 1988,
declaring himself a prophet and taking about a dozen followers with him.
Kraft's mother, Georgia Craig of Nauvoo, was relieved her son had been
"I'm relieved for the fact I know he's alive," she told the newspaper.
"My worst fear was that Jeff had killed Danny."
Craig said she believed her son was held against his will. She and her
husband went to Kirtland in 1987 in hopes of luring him away, but Lundgren
would not allow him to speak to his mother alone.
"He was a stranger; I didn't know this kid," Craig said. "Danny's not
the same person I raised."