Eleven historic documents sold by murder suspect Mark W. Hofmann -- including the so-called "White Salamander" letter describing use of witchcraft by the founder of the Mormon church -- are not authentic, according to court documents made public here today.
"Probable cause statements" prepared by the Salt Lake County attorney's office and unsealed by Utah 5th Circuit Court Judge Paul G. Grant said the documents have been reviewed by George Throckmorton, identified as an "experienced questioned-documents examiner" who works for the state attorney general.
Throckmorton "has done extensive scientific analysis on all of the documents described . . . and has concluded that none are authentic," said one of the statements submitted to the court to support two first-degree murder charges filed Tuesday against Hofmann.
Hofmann is accused of killing Steven F. Christensen and Kathleen W. Sheets. Christensen died Oct. 15 when he disturbed a bomb concealed in a plain brown cardboard box left outside his office in a downtown Salt Lake City office building. Sheets died several hours later when she lifted a similar box left outside her suburban Salt Lake City home.
Hofmann is also charged with several counts of "theft by deception" and communications fraud.
Christensen and Sheets' husband, J. Gary Sheets, had purchased the White Salamander letter from Hofmann in January 1984. The letter, dated 1830, was purportedly written by Martin Harris, an early convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormon church.
The letter describes a white salamander that initially prevented Mormon church founder Joseph Smith from obtaining buried golden plates that later were translated into the Book of Mormon. The reference to a white salamander is not part of official church history.
Historic-document experts had previously declared the white salamander letter authentic.
At the time of the bombings, Christensen was acting as middleman between Hofmann and Mormon leaders interested in obtaining the collected works of early Mormon dissident William McClellan.
Other statements released today indicate that before the bombings, Christensen asked Curt Bench, a mutual friend, to help him find Hofmann. Christensen is said to have told Bench that Hofmann was in serious trouble and could face "legal actions" and possible "criminal charges."
Christensen also told Bench that Hofmann could lose his membership in the church and forfeit his business with church members.
Another statement quotes a business associate of Christensen, who was sitting in Christensen's office Oct. 10 when Hofmann walked into the office and asked to speak privately with Christensen. The man told police he later heard Christensen shouting, "You can't hide that!" to Hofmann. The observer said Hofmann was "solemn" when he left.
A bail hearing for Hofmann is to continue Thursday. He is being held in the Salt Lake City-County Jail.