Ohio Executes Lundgren
by Bob Priddy
The state of Ohio executed Jeffrey Lundgren this morning for murdering
5 members of his cult.
He split from the RLDS (now Community of Christ) Church in 1981 and
formed his own group based on the teachings of the Bible and the Book
of Mormon as he interpreted them. Among his followers were Dennis and
Lundgren led his group to Kirtland Ohio, where Mormon founder Joseph
Smith had established an early temple, claiming he was directed by the
scriptures to take his group there. They arrived in August of 1984 and
Lundgren and his wife were given jobs as tour guides at the temple. He
claimed to have found the buried plates of the Book of Mormon in
nearby Chapin Forest. It is thought that he stole about $25,000 from
temple while working there and living in a nearby house provided by
the church. He began to form a new group in his home. In 1986 he said
he had gotten revelations for the return of Christ. When those visions
were faulty, he announced a vision had told him his group had to seize
the temple on May 3, 1988 and execute ten RLDS leaders and anyone else
who got in their way.
Dennis and Cheryl Avery moved to Kirtland from Independence in April
of 1987. They gave him $10,000 of the money they'd gotten from the
sale of their Independence home. Lundgren, however, was critical of
them for liberal tendencies.
In Sept, 1987, the RLDS church revoked Lundgren's ministerial
credentials because of his radical teachings. He withdrew from the
church membership and moved to a farm near Kirtland and became even
In February, 1988, a deserter from his cult told the FBI about the
planned temple takeover. The FBI passed information along to Kirtland
During this time, Lundgren apparently had a vision that he had to
sacrifice the Avery family because it was becoming increasingly
sinful. He enlisted the rest of his followers in his plan. A large
hole was dug in the floor of the barn at Lundgren's farm and on April
17 the entire Avery family--the parents and three children--were shot
to death and their bodies were buried in the hole.
The Lundgren group went to West Virginia and established a compound
but stayed only a short time before Lundgren decided to return to
Missouri. After the group stayed briefly in a barn near Chilhowee,
Lundgren decided the group needed to break up for the winter, earn
some money, then reassemble in the spring. On December 31, 1989, one
of the group went to the FBI in Kansas City, told the entire story,
and information was sent to Kirtland where the bodies were found on
January 3, 1990. A few days later, five Lundgren followers were
arrested in KC. Three more surrendered later. Lundgren was tracked to
southern California and arrested.
Lundgren was pronounced dead at 9:26 a.m., central time, today in
Ohio. Several of his followers, including his wife, remain in prison.