Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Killing for God

Day of Vengeance

Ervil had too much time to think and plot while he was locked up, and shortly after he was released, he published a new fire-and-brimstone essay called "Hour of Crisis - Day of Vengeance."

Hour of Crisis
Hour of Crisis

Written in pompous-sounding King James English, the tract was barely coherent. Only after the Firstborners read and reread it were they able to eke out its meaning. It was essentially a list of demands on the Firstborn church. Among other things, he demanded that the congregation fork over their tithes directly to him, according to Bradlee and Van Atta.

"It is a criminal offense, punishable by death, for an enlightened people to pay tithes and offerings to thieves and robbers (and other fundamentalist leaders)," Ervil wrote. "The sword of vengeance (will) hang over the heads of all those who should fail to hear the word of the Lord. Willful failure to comply with (the book's) minimum requirements constitutes the crime of rebellion against God."

In other words, anyone who didn't pay dues to Ervil should die.

While Ervil was in prison, his mother wrote him that he "should not be in jail, but in a mental hospital," and from his latest diatribe, it certainly appeared that Ervil was suffering from delusions of grandeur.

His ultimatum was met by a wall of silence, and Ervil decided the apostates must be punished. He told his followers that he'd had yet another revelation: they must destroy Los Molinos.

The day after Christmas, he sent his footsoldiers across the border into Baja under cover of night, bearing firebombs and assault weapons. As some 30 Firstborn families gathered around their wood-burning stoves or tucked their children into bed, a pickup truck and a Fiat turned onto the dirt road leading to the quiet farming commune, cut their headlights, and slowed to a crawl. The temperatures hovered near freezing that night, and smoke rose from the chimneys of the cozy homes into the dark blue sky.

The peaceful tableau was shattered by a Molotov cocktail crashing through the window of the town's largest house, according to Anderson. Within seconds, the wood-framed house was engulfed in fire. The occupants ran outside, and in the confusion that followed, Ervil's thugs sprayed bullets over the people racing to form a water brigade, their figures silhouetted against the dancing orange flames.

The assailants barreled through the settlement throwing more firebombs into homes as they made their way toward their primary target: Verlan's abode. The Firstborn leader wasn't home, but his wife Charlotte and six of their children were. When they saw the truck with five armed men in the back making an erratic beeline for their house, they ran to hide in a dark orchard while the men shot up their house and set it on fire.

The 20-minute onslaught left two men dead, 13 people wounded, and Ervil spitting mad because his brother was still alive.

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