Led by neo-polygamist Mormon patriarch Ervil LeBaron, this tribe of killers (many of them his wives and children) murdered at least 20 people - mostly rival polygamists and fringe Mormons - over a 20-year period. LeBaron himself died in prison in 1981, but the killings were continued by his followers for years after his death.
Aaron LeBaron became the sect's high priest after his father's death. Like father like son; Aaron soon got into trouble with the law. In a "blood atonement"for leaving the cult, Mark Chynoweth and his brother Duane Chynoweth were shot to death in Houston, and Edward Marston was nearly simultaneously killed in Dallas. A young girl was also murdered for she witnessed one of the slayings. According to Ervil's Lamb of God 510-page tome, anyone leaving the cult had to be killed before believers could inherit God's kingdom on Earth.
In 1996 Aaron was near the cult's colony in northern Mexico and on March, 1997, he was convicted by a Houston court of directing the June, 1988, slayings of the three sect defectors and a girl. The jury also found him guilty of conspiracy to commit murder for hire, conspiracy to obstruct religious beliefs, racketeering conspiracy and racketeering. However, the murder-for-hire conviction was overturned.
On June 13, 1997, Aaron was sentenced to 45 years in prison for the killings and the racketeering charges. LeBaron was also ordered to pay $134,000 in restitution to help pay for the victims' funerals. All in all it seems to us that Aaron got away with a light sentence for orchestrating four deaths. As Assistant U.S. Attorney Mike Shelby said after the sentencing, "His father created a monster called the Church of the Lamb of God, but Aaron LeBaron gave that monster direction."
In a rambling statement in court, LeBaron said he wanted to get a degree in journalism
while in jail and tell the public how to prevent crime. Three other cult members are already serving life sentences for their roles in the slayings.
Authorities are still seeking LeBaron's half-sister, Tarsa LeBaron, who is believed to be hiding in Mexico or Belgium.
JACQUELINE TARSA LeBARON
Jacqueline Tarsa LeBaron is wanted for her alleged involvement in a series of crimes which occurred in the Texas area. On June 27, 1988, four people were murdered simultaneously in Houston and Irving, Texas, allegedly by members of the LeBaron crime family. Reportedly, this crime family started when Ervil LeBaron broke off from the Mormon Church to start his own polygamous sect, which he called the Church of the Lamb of God (CLG).
In 1972, Ervil LeBaron was convicted and imprisoned for ordering his followers to murder his brother for breaking CLG commandments. While in prison, Ervil LeBaron wrote a book that would become the bible for CLG members. Additionally, in the book it stated that any individual caught breaking the commandments would be sentenced to death. On June 27, 1988, three CLG followers were murdered allegedly by LeBaron family members for breaking CLG commandments and for choosing to leave the church. Also murdered was a victim's eight-year-old daughter because she was a witness to her father's murder.
By 1995, three of the six LeBaron family defendants were found guilty of the June 1988 murders and incarcerated. A fourth defendant plead guilty and was sentenced to prison. The fifth defendant was convicted of ordering the assassinations and imprisoned. Jacqueline Tarsa LeBaron, the sixth defendant, remains a fugitive. Additionally, during Ervil LeBaron's incarceration and following his death in prison, many of his 54 children reportedly continued to carry out their father's teachings.
On October 14, 1992, a federal arrest warrant was issued in the United States District Court, Southern District of Houston, Texas. Jacqueline Tarsa LeBaron was charged with the following crimes: conspiracy to commit murder for consideration; murder for consideration; conspiracy to tamper with a witness; tampering with a witness; use of a firearm during a crime of violence; conspiracy to obstruct religious beliefs; obstruction of religious beliefs; RICO conspiracy, and RICO.
The FBI is offering a $20,000 reward for information leading directly to the arrest of Jacqueline Tarsa LeBaron.
Using the doctrine of blood atonement to justify multiple murders, LeBaron died in prison for orchestrating the murder of an opponent. He had 16 wives in a plural marriage, several of whom he married while they were still underage.
After the mainstream Mormon church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, officially abandoned the practice of polygamy in 1890, some polygamous Mormons who wished to continue the practice, without the interference of U.S. law enforcement, moved south to Mexico. Alma Dayer LeBaron was one of these people, and in 1924 moved his family, which included his two wives and eight children, to northern Mexico. There, the family started a farm called "Colonia LeBaron" in Galeana, Chihuahua.
When Alma died in 1951, he passed the leadership of the community on to his son Joel LeBaron. Joel eventually incorporated the community as the Church of the Firstborn in the Fullness of Times in Salt Lake City, Utah. His younger brother, Ervil LeBaron, was the elder LeBaron's second in command during the early years of the church's existence. The group ultimately numbered around 30 families who lived in both Utah and a community called "Los Molinos" on the Baja California Peninsula.
In 1972, the brothers split over leadership of the church and Ervil started a new church in San Diego, California, the Church of the Lamb of God. That same year, he ordered the killing of his brother Joel in Mexico. Leadership of the Baja California church passed to the youngest LeBaron brother, Verlan, whom Ervil unsuccessfully tried to have killed over the next decade. Ervil was tried in Mexico in 1974 for the murder of Joel, but the ruling was overturned on a technicality. Ervil subsequently raided Los Molinos in an attempt to kill Verlan, who was not at home, but the town was destroyed and two men were killed in the process.
Ervil LeBaron's attention was also focused on rival polygamous leaders. In April 1975, he ordered the killing of Bob Simons, a polygamist who ministered to Native Americans. LeBaron's 10th wife, Vonda White, carried out several murders on her husband's orders. She is believed to have killed Noemi Zarate, the wife of one of LeBaron's close associates who became critical of LeBaron's practices. White also killed Dean Grover Vest, one of LeBaron's henchman who attempted to leave the church that year. White was later sentenced to life in prison for the Vest murder. LeBaron has also been linked to death of his own daughter Rebecca, who spoke out against the group.
In 1977, LeBaron ordered the killing of Rulon C. Allred, leader of another group of polygamous Mormon fundamentalists called the Apostolic United Brethren. LeBaron's 13th wife, Rena Chynoweth, and another woman, Ramona Marston, carried out the murder. Rena Chynoweth was later tried and then acquitted for Allred's murder. In 1990, Chynoweth wrote a book, The Blood Covenant, about her experiences in LeBaron's group, which she characterized as using mind control and fear to control its followers.
On June 1, 1979, LeBaron was apprehended by police in Mexico and was extradited to the United States, where he was convicted of having ordered Allred's death. In 1980,
he was sentenced to life imprisonment at the Utah State Penitentiary, where he died on August 16, 1981. Coincidentally, Verlan (whom Ervil had tried
to murder) died in an auto accident in Mexico City two days after Ervil's body was discovered in his cell.
While in prison, LeBaron continued to order his remaining followers to murder his opponents, including some of his wives and children. It has been estimated that upwards of 25 people were killed as a result of LeBaron's prison-cell orders. Many of his family members and other ex-members of the group still remain in hiding for fear of retribution from LeBaron's remaining followers. Before his death, he reportedly wrote a 400-page "bible" (The Book of the New Covenants), which included a commandment to kill disobedient church members. Some 20 copies were printed.
Several of his followers have been convicted for murder, while others are still on the run. Ervil's daughter Jacqueline Tarsa
LeBaron is wanted by the FBI.
FBI offering reward for Ervil LeBaron's daughter
Deseret Morning News/November 26, 2007
By Ben Winslow
Brenda Jensen used to sleep with a gun under her pillow.
The Mesquite, Nev., woman says her family was on polygamist leader Ervil LeBaron's infamous "hit list." Her father even received a letter saying he would be killed.
"There was a letter that informed him he sinned beyond redemption and the only way he could be saved is by blood atonement," she recalls.
More than 25 years after LeBaron's death at the Utah State Prison, some people still live in fear of the list that reportedly ordered blood atonement for those who left his church or crossed him.
The FBI refuses to comment on whether LeBaron's hit list remains active.
"Naturally, whenever you know that there's a hit list that's been compiled for someone and you have followers, you would be concerned," FBI special agent Patricia Villafranca said. "The FBI is concerned."
Federal agents are still searching for the last link to those bloody years. The FBI's Houston office is offering a $20,000 reward for information that leads to the capture of one of its most wanted fugitives - Ervil's daughter, Jacqueline Tarsa LeBaron.
Authorities said that, as the leader of the Church of the Lamb of God, Ervil LeBaron wrote a "bible" for his followers that preached anyone caught breaking his commandments was sentenced to death.
LeBaron, who had 13 wives and 54 children, sought to unite all of Utah's polygamous sects under one umbrella. Anyone who resisted his plans was met with violence.
In 1977, police said, LeBaron ordered the assassination of a rival polygamist leader, Rulon C. Allred. LeBaron eventually was captured, convicted and sentenced to prison, where he died in his cell of a heart attack in 1981.
In the years after his death, there were a series of slayings and suspicious deaths involving about 30 former church members - including four slayings that Jacqueline Tarsa LeBaron is accused of helping plot.
On June 27, 1988, at approximately 4 p.m., four slayings were carried out simultaneously in Houston and Irving, Texas. All of the victims were killed by shotgun blasts to the head, including an 8-year-old girl who witnessed her father's slaying.
In 1992, six members of the LeBaron family were indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of murder, conspiracy to obstruct religious beliefs and racketeering. Five were convicted, but Jacqueline was not.
In the years since the slayings, William Heber LeBaron gave authorities information on his sister, which led to her placement on the FBI's Most Wanted list. In a testimonial posted on a Web site for "former Mormons," LeBaron said he has renounced his fanatical beliefs.
"Now that I am a Christian, I'm shocked and horrified by all the evil I did while in the cult," he wrote. "I know I was wrong in killing all those murderers who abused and terrorized us. The Word of God clearly states the vengeance belongs to God and that we are to obey the laws of the land. I see my sin very clearly now and have asked God to forgive me."
Many believe the deaths were linked to scriptures Ervil LeBaron wrote preaching blood atonement. Rumors also have circulated about a hit list that went out of the prison, which led to the slayings.
"There's a paranoia out there," said Susan Ray Schmidt, who was once betrothed to Ervil LeBaron and, at age 15, ended up becoming the sixth wife of his brother, Verlan.
Verlan LeBaron died in a car crash in Mexico City on the same day Ervil died in prison. Schmidt believes it was merely an accident, but she said others in her family insist it was murder.
Schmidt, who now lives in Idaho and recently wrote a book titled "His Favorite Wife: Trapped in Polygamy," said she has spoken with people still in the LeBaron group. Some remain convinced they could be killed, even after all these years.
"There really is no way for them to know that it's something long in the past and that there's no such thing as an Ervil LeBaron hit list anymore," she said. "Anyone who carried it out is either long dead, locked up and repentant. It's a dead list."
Schmidt said she does not believe the list is still active. In fact, she said she has spoken to many of Ervil LeBaron's children who want nothing more than to get past those awful years.
Jensen said her husband, Kimball, was a bodyguard for some of the children who testified against Ervil LeBaron. Her father, Harold Blackmore, was also a member of a rival polygamous group. They were told by the FBI that they were on the list, she said.
Initially, Jensen said, she was worried. She took precautions. Now, Jensen said, she doesn't really worry about it because she refuses to live in fear.
"You're always on the list, and if there's someone out there that picks up that cause ... ," she said. "I've been asked a lot, 'Don't you feel afraid?' No, because I can't allow it to cripple me to the point where I can't do anything."
The FBI said it would like to end the fear and speculation by finally apprehending Jaqueline Tarsa LeBaron. There's now a $20,000 reward for any information that leads to her capture.
"Enough time had gone by, and we weren't getting any information," Villafranca said. "A reward would refresh people's memory."
LeBaron, who would be about 41, is believed to be hiding in Mexico. Her wanted poster lists 15 aliases and says she is known to wear disguises.
"There's a very good chance she's in Mexico," Villafranca said. "It is believed she is most likely in Mexico teaching English."