UPce 01/12 2046 Ohio cult leader admitted killings, affidavit says By KATE CALLEN EL CAJON
UPce 01/12 2046 Ohio cult leader admitted killings, affidavit says
By KATE CALLEN
EL CAJON, Calif. (UPI) -- The leader of a religious cult admitted to his
followers that he killed five members of an Ohio family and had members of
his group help bury the victims, a court affidavit showed Friday.
Self-proclaimed prophet Jeffery Lundgren, 39; his wife, Alice Elizabeth,
38; their eldest 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.
At least one of the defendants admitted seeing Lundgren shoot a member
of the Avery family and other followers said Lundgren "had an affinity" for
the Colt .45 believed to be the murder weapon, a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco
and Firearms agent said in the affidavit.
The Averys were allegedly killed execution-style with a .45-caliber
pistol in a barn on a Kirtland farm on or about April 16, 1989. The next
day, Lundgren led his flock from the Cleveland area to West Virginia and
Bail was set at $150,000 Friday in Painesville, Ohio, for the first of
the 13 alleged members of the cult indicted in the slayings. Sharon Jean
Bluntschly, who surrendered to Michigan authorities near her home in Bay
City, Mich., last weekend, did not enter a plea during a brief appearance
in Lake County Common Pleas Court.
Two other Lundgren followers, Kathryn Renee Johnson and Daniel David
Kraft Jr., were arraigned in a San Diego courtroom Friday and pleaded
innocent to fugitive charges.
Johnson, 36, of Holden, Mo., and Kraft, 25, of Nauvoo, Ill., were
captured Wednesday in eastern San Diego County, just three days after
Lundgren, his wife and son were arrested at a motel 14 miles from the
Like the Lundgrens, Johnson and Kraft refused to agree to be extradited
to Ohio and will remain in custody without bail at least until a formal
The entire extradition process for all five is expected to take 90 days.
In the search warrant affidavit, filed Sunday in El Cajon Municipal
Court, ATF Agent Richard Van Haelst of the bureau's Kansas City office said
he interviewed cult members who gave him "detailed descriptions of the
murders in question and Jeffrey Paul Lundgren's admissions to those
One member interviewed said he saw Lundgren shoot one person and that
"the one murder that he actually observed was committed with the particular
handgun ... the Colt .45," Van Haelst's affidavit said.
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.
The followers "helped carry the bodies to the grave that had been
prepared in advance," Van Haelst said.
The court affidavit did not identify the cult members Van Haelst
interviewed. The affidavit was filed to obtain a warrant used to search the
Lundgrens' room at the Sante Fe Motel Sunday.
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 calls herself "Liz," told agents
there were firearms, ammunition and survival gear in the locker. The agent
referred to Liz Lundgren as a cooperating suspect.
On Thursday, ATF agents displayed rifles, handguns, swords and
ammunition taken from the locker, the Lundgrens' National City motel room,
and a motel room in Chula Vista, where Johnson and Kraft stayed over the
"They had plenty of ammunition to ward off an army," ATF agent Andrew
Along with the cache of weapons, which included a rare .50-caliber
sniper rifle capable of firing armor-piercing bullets at long range, agents
seized bibles and an embroidered purple vestment Lundgren apparently wore
during religious ceremonies.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank