SALT LAKE CITY, JULY 31 -- Convicted killer Mark Hofmann says a last-minute change of heart prompted him to try to warn his two victims about pipe bombs he had planted after his scheme to forge Mormon documents began to unravel.
Hofmann's first public detailing of what prosecutor Robert Stott termed "the most complicated forgery scheme of all" and the October 1985 bombings that grew out of the scheme were contained in transcripts and summaries of interviews with the confessed killer released today by the Salt Lake County attorney's office.
In the interviews, Hofmann also claimed that a third bombing that seriously injured him a day after the two fatal explosions was a suicide attempt. "He thought that he deserved death, and it would be the best thing for his family," prosecutors wrote in a 14-page summary of Hofmann's comments.
The interviews, conducted from January to May, were part of a controversial Jan. 23 plea agreement calling for Hofmann to detail the bombings and the forgeries that brought him at least $1.5 million.
On Oct. 15, 1985, pipe bombs disguised as packages killed Steven Christensen, a 30-year-old Mormon bishop and documents enthusiast, and Kathleen Sheets, 50, wife of former Christensen business associate Gary Sheets. The third blast the next day critically injured Hofmann, prompting authorities to name him as their chief suspect.
Hofmann pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder and two counts of theft by deception, and 26 other counts were dismissed. He was sentenced to one term of five years to life for Christensen's murder and three terms of one to 15 years for Sheets' murder and the theft counts. If authorities determine he is not telling the truth, it could affect the length of sentence he serves.
The summary, attached to 541 pages of interviews on Hofmann's five-year career as a master forger, also revealed that all the major Mormon documents he traded or sold were forgeries and that he chose pipe bombs for the killings because he could not face his victims with a gun.
Salt Lake City Police Chief Bud Willoughby said he is not satisfied that Hofmann had told all he knew. Ron Yengich, Hofmann's attorney, said Hofmann complied fully with the plea agreement and is "repentant."
Hofmann said in the interviews with prosecutors that he tried to warn both his victims by telephone after placing the gunpowder-filled bombs just outside Christensen's office and in Sheets' driveway. Christensen was dead when Hofmann's call to his office reached an answering machine, while no one answered the call at Sheets' house.
In the weeks before the bombings, Hofmann's most elaborate documents scheme had begun to unravel: selling a cache of documents he claimed had been written and collected by early Mormon apostle William McLellin. In fact they did not exist.
Christensen, who had negotiated the sale of the collection, was to have met Hofmann the day of the murders to begin authenticating the collection.
"He said he wasn't rational at the time but decided that Steve Christensen would have to be killed so that the McLellin transaction would not take place," prosecutors wrote.
By contrast, Hofmann did not particularly intend to kill Sheets or his wife but wanted a bombing at their house so authorities would believe Christensen's death was tied to Sheets' financial problems, the prosecutors wrote.
Hofmann, 32, gained instant recognition in 1980 when he unveiled a manuscript purportedly written by Mormon Church founder Joseph Smith. He continued to deal in forged documents that fooled archivists and scholars. The Mormon Church was his biggest customer, acquiring nearly 40 documents.