It was a tragic mixture of beliefs and practices that led to the last thing Utah Mormon fundamentalist John Singer heard: a deputy sheriff's shotgun blast that ended the 47-year-old German immigrant's life.
Singer, a 30-year resident of Summit County, Utah, whose last battle was to keep 10 children out of the public schools that he viewed as teaching immorality, was no stranger to controversy. And in a state where religious cults, polygamists and extreme individualists seem to thrive, Singer pushed the limits one step too far.
Singer was born in New York City in 1932, but lived the first 15 years of his life in Germany, where he was a member of the Hitler Youth. It was a chapter of his life he often spoke about, describing how his hatred of his regimented early life pushed him to a withdrawn lifestyle on his Utah farm. He joined the Mormon Church, but was excommunicated six years ago for constantly questioning Mormon doctrine, according to church officials.
His marriage to his first wife, Vickie Lemon, of Kamas, a small Summit County town down the road from the Singer homestead, came in 1963. Her parents caused a furor, saying that Singer had brainwashed their daugher. They even tried to get her committed to a mental hospital.
The Singers fled to Nevada to have the ceremony performed. They returned to Singer's Marion, Utah, farm and prepared for what Singer said would be "a time when only the fittest will survive."
But the real trouble for Singer began on March 29, 1973, when the excommunicated fundamentalist pulled his five school-age children from the public school system to teach them himself. He objected to the teachings at the school, particularly those of racial equality.
This move was at first allowed by the school board in the high mountain county, but when Singer refused to submit his children to school board progress tests, charges were pressed by the Summit County attorney and the road to this week's fatal shooting was paved.
The story drew immediate media response and Singer often welcomed reporters to his farm, giving them dinner and filling them in on the lawmen's latest attempts to take him into custody. The wide coverage began to draw the attention of many people, some of whom began to visit Singer, claiming they were sent by God to help Singer defend his family and his rights.
But the most important attention it drew was that Summit County Sheriff Ron Robinson, whose job it was to bring Singer into a court hearing on the misdemeanor charges about his children's schooling. Robinson showed up at Singer's house unarmed on several occasions to ask Singer to voluntarily give up. Singer countered he would defend himself and his family with firearms, if necessary.
Singer's sense of being a man under siege was not helped by his announcement in early October that he had dramatically enlarged his family. Singer, whose Mormon fundamentalism included a belief in polygamy, had taken a second wife, Shirley Black, and her five children.
The air was heavy with threats that a vigilante mob would storm the Singer property, led by Black's estranged husband. Warrants were issued against Singer, who had performed the ceremony for his second marriage himself.
A week later, on Oct. 19, 1978, came the first raid on his home.
That day, as dusk approached, a black Lincoln Continental drove up the turnout to the Singer property. A man identifying himself as "Bob Wilson of the Los Angeles Times" climbed out. He was, in reality, an officer of the Utah Highway Patrol with a warrant for Singer's arrest. He told Singer he had a crew in a van following close behind. When the crew arrived they trapped Singer and forced him into the van, as Singer's two wives and 10 children swarmed on the lawmen. Singer freed a hand and pulled a.38 cal. automatic pistol from his pocket.
As Singer brandished the gun, demanding that the agents get their "ugly faces out of here or I'll blow you heads off," the agents identified themselves. They withdrew, filed felony charges of criminal assault with a deadly weapon against police officers, and "decided to wait for the right time" for another arrest attempt.
In the months since the October arrest attempt the rustic Singer log cabin resembled an armed camp, rather than a home.
Singer installed wire covering over the windows to keep out tear gas, should the sheriff's department decide to smoke him out.
Singer told reporters he never left the house without being armed. The trademark by which he became known to all -- and especially the police -- became the.38-cal. pistol he packed in the right pocket of his blue jeans.
He was watched for the last 18 days of his life by a contingent of Summit County sheriff's deputies.
Then Thursday, apparently deciding the time was right, they tried to take Singer into custody as he went to retrieve his mail from the box along the road in front of his farm.
It was there that Singer was fatally wounded.
Singer's first wife, Vickie, was held overnight in the Summit County jail. Her lawyer said she was released today and given unrestricted custody of her children, who had been made wards of the state.Singer's second wife, Shirley, was not arrested. Her children were turned over to their natural father, Dean Black.