The murder of the leader of a polygamist sect here in May has led investigating authorities into a widening hunt for a rival polygamist leader who is wanted for questioning about he murder or dissapperanced of at least nine persons.
The bizarre case, publicized recently in several columns by Jack Anderson and Les Whitten, has taken investigators to three Western states and has focused attention on the continuing practice of polygamy, or plural marriage, in the intermountain West.
Police here say they anticipate issuing complaints for a s many as five suspected conspirators in the murder of Rulon C. Allred, a naturapath who was shot to death in his office May 10 by two young persons who police say "appeared to be women." Five patients watched as the two assailants pumped six bullets into Allred at close range.
Allred was the leader of a polygamist group with a membership of 2,000 to 2,500. Its members consider themselves "Morton fundamentalists" who agree with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on doctorinal matters other than polygamy, which the Mormons renounced in 1890.
"We believe the motive for the killing was to gain control of the Allred polygamist group and that it was directed by a rival polygamist group," says veteran prosecutor David E. Yocum.
Reportedly there have been conflicts between some members of the Allred group and some members of another polygamist sect that calls itself the Church of the Lamb of God.
The Church of the Lamb of God is headed by Ervil M. LeBaron, a 52-year-old polygamist believed hiding in Mexico, where he once was convicted of being the "intellectual author" of the murder of his brother, Joel.he is decribed as a charismatic, highly intelligent and fanatical man who exercises a deep influence over his followers, men and woman. LeBaron was described in a 1972 "wanted" poster issued by Mexican authorities as a green-eyed, brown haired man weighing 224 lbs, and 6-foot-4 in height. He sometimes used the alias Morrell McDonald and was considered to be armed and dangerous. Persons who have known LeBaron well say he has as many as 10 wives, some of whom have lived with him at a family ranch in Mexico he called Colonia LeBaron.
Investigators have compared othe influence LeBaron exerts over his followers to that of Charles Manson. But in the case of LeBaron's followers, as one dective puts it, "there are no drugs or drinking in this group - they are cold-sober people who believe in the rightness of their cause."
In a series of tracts and pamphlets written over the past five years, Lebaron has claimed the authority to execute those who do not accept his authority as God's representative on earth.
An 87-page book written in May, 1974, showed the picture of an uplifted sword the picture of an uplifted sword and was titled "Hour of Crisis - Day of Vengance."
In this book LeBaron warns religious leaders who do not accept his authority that they are guilty of "crimes and abominations" that, "under the civil law of God are punishable by the penalty of death."
In October, 1974, LeBaron published another book, "A Contest at Law," which was coauthored by Daniel B. Jordan, a follower. In this book the authors proclaim "God's constitutional law," which they say "requires the execution of imposters and criminal ecclesiastical leaders who take a course to deceive mankind."
In April, 1975, a number of polygamists in Salt Lake City received pamphlets from the Church of the Lamb of God titled "Response to an Act of War." A number of leading polygamists their lives were in danger unless they accepted "the political Kingdom of God," as LeBaron often refers to his beliefs.
LeBaron has never been charged with any crime by U.S. authorities, though violent death of disappearance has been the lot of followers who have dissented with him or tried to break away from his cult. There are there known deaths:
Joel LeBaron, an older brother of Ervil's and like him a "fundamentalist" who had been excommunicated by the Mormon church because of polygamy. Joel was the acknowledged leader of a sect known as the Church of Firstborn of the Fulness of Times, and for years Ervil accepted his brother's quarrel in the late 1960s over religious matters and the economic use of a colony, Los Molinos, they had founded in Baja California, Mexico, 160 miles south of hte California border. Ervil published booklets accusing Joel of "capital crimes" and calling for his death. On Aug. 20, 1972, Joel was beaten with a chair and shot to death in an Ensenada home. Ervil was convicted as the "intellectual author" and served nearly a year in jail before being freed by an appelate court.
Morone Mendez, 16, and Edmundo Aguilar, 24, who were killed Dec. 26, 1974, in a well-planned shooting and firebomb raid on Los Molinos that the residents blamed on the Ervil LeBaron sect. Armed raiders entered shot at residents as they attempted to put out the flames. Mendez, on the roof of one house that was set afire, was killed by shotgun fire. Aguilar, sleeping through most of the raid, tried to excape a house when a fire-bomb ignited his bed and was shot in the head.
Dean Vest, a former follower, who was shot to death in San Diego in 1975.
Allred, who had received a number of threatening messages before his death. He was a naturopath, which under Utal law is a medical practitioner who can administer drugs and perform various services, including obstetrics, but is not allowed to do major surgery. Reportedly, Allred often had been confronted by Ervil LeBaron, who demanded tithes and a recognition of authority from Allred's followers.
In addition, there are at least four confirmed disappearances of polygamist followers of LeBaron who are believed to have been killed. Some investigating authorities believe that the number of actual killings, including several in Mexico, may be far higher than this total of nine.
Several former followers of LeBaron have said they are in fear of being killed. LeBaron's first wife, Delfina, is in hiding with her three children.
Police in this 30,000-population suburb of Salt Lake City are well-respected by other Utah law enforcement authorities but they have been hampered in their investigation by fear of LeBaron and by a small budget. Much of the investigation outside the area has been undertaken by a 25-year-old newspaper reporter, Dale Van Atta of the Mormon-owned Deseret News.
Van Atta traveled late last month to Mexico and talked to followers of LeBaron in a small village near Puebla, southeast of Mexico City. In the course of the investigation he has interviewed more than 60 polygamists and four witnesses to the LeBaron hiding place a day before Ervil and two armed bodyguards were scheduled to return.
National attention has been focused on the LeBaron investion by columnist Anderson, a Mormon and onetime Utah newspaperman who has investigated polygamist groups. Anderson compares the Ervil-and-Joel story to the biblical story of Cain, who murdered his brother, Abel, to secure his birthright. By Anderson's estimate, as many as 20 murders maybe attributed to Ervil.
So far, however, authorities in the United States have not charged Ervil LeBaron with anything. Police say that Ervil never has been a trigger man and that all of the known killings have been committed by his followers.
"No one has been able to link Ervil directly to the murder, and conspiracy is difficult to prove," says Murray Detective Sgt. Paul Forbes, who heads the investigation into the Allred killing.
The only person charged in connection with the slaying was Nancy L. Chynoweth, 28, of Littleton, Colo., a LeBaron follower. She was charged with "criminal conspiracy" in the case but the charge was dismissed on Tuesday, when prosecutor Yocom told the court that presentation of evidence at a premilinary hearing would jeopardize the arrest and conviction of other conspirators. Yocom said he wants to try all alleged conspirators at the same time.
Murray Municipal Court Judge L.H. Griffiths turned down Yocom's reques for delay of the hearing but warned the defendant before he dismissed the charges that they could be refiled at any time. Yocom said afterward that "in all likelihood" the charges would be refiled afte rotehr arrests were made.
Both Yocom and Forbes predict that complaints for several conspirators in the Allred murder ultimately will be issued.
The LeBaron cult also is wanted for questioning by the Secret Service in connection with murder threats to President Carter and Mormon church leaders that were first reported by Anderson. No arrest warrants have been issued because the letters, although bearing an address used by the Church of the Lamb of God, were not signed.
Ervil LeBaron is oneof nine surviving children of a family of 13 fathered by Alma Dayer LeBaron, whose own father was part of a group of polygamist Mormons who fled to Medico in the late 1880s to escape federal prosecution. These Mormons formed two colonies, Colonia Juarez and Colonia Dublan, where their descendants - now non-polygamist Mormons in good standing - are prosperous English-speaking farmers today.
Dayer LeBaron who claimed he had a visitation from a relative and friedn of Mormon prophet Joseph Smith that gave him higher authority to his sons, one of whom Dayer said would become the "one mighty and strong" who would lead the Mormon people.
Dayer LeBaron returned to the United States before the Mexican revolution of 1911, and most of his children were born during the family's nomadic wanderings through Arizona, California, Nevada and Idaho.
Of the nine LeBaron children still living, five head their own sets. One of these is Ross LeBaron, who believes that "the second coming of Christ" will occur in a flying saucer in Salt Lake. According to The Deseret News, two of the others are in mental hospitals and one is a pianist. The ninth is Ervil.
Van Atta chronicled the lives of the LeBarons after a series of interviews with them, especially Esther, 55, a concert pianist who lives in Colonia Juarez. She began writing the family history while in jail after several polygamist families were arrested in a raid on Short Creek, Ariz, in 1953.
"I think we are a most unusual family," Esther was quoted by Van Atta as saying. "There's no use any of us lying about the family. Facts are facts and truth is truth."