UPwe 01/12 0225 Cult-slayings detailed SAN DIEGO (UPI) - A court affidavit gives chilling

---
Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

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 the murders". 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 Haelst said. 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 Haelst said. 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 Sunday. Lundgren, his wife and oldest son were at the motel before their arrest that day. 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 an army." 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 ceremonies. 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 those items. "We'd like to go through it without the glare of publcity," LaTourette said. 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 religious cult. 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 kidnapping. 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 returned. 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 found. "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."

---

E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank