Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Killing for God

Total World Domination

Ervil's plans kept getting bigger. After taking over Los Molinos, he wanted to take over the governments of Mexico and the United States, and eventually rule the world.

He decided to finance his bid for total world domination by killing his religious rivals and stealing their business.

At this point, the Lamb of God church consisted largely of his Ervil's wives and progeny. But there were also enough outsiders to keep the baby propagation going, and like an ancient king, Ervil controlled the "romantic" liaisons in his realm. He had first dibs on the females, arranged marriages between subjects, and gave away his daughters to men he wanted to cement relationships with or reward for good behavior.

The ever-expanding clan moved to Utah, where Ervil dropped in on the patriarchs of other polygamous tribes and demanded they give him 10% of their earnings... or die. The patriarchs told him to get lost.

Meanwhile, back in Los Molinos, the Firstborn families were sleeping with guns by their sides and had organized patrols to watch their property. Verlan was living in a safe house in San Diego.

Ervil had moles firmly planted amid the Firstborners who reported back to him on these activities. But some of these people started getting nervous after the raid. One of them was Noemi Zarate, a plural wife of one of Ervil's close associates. Noemi got a bad case of loose lips and complained about the violence, threatening to tell the police the location of Ervil's whereabouts. With the full blessing of Noemi's husband, Ervil decided to shut her up once and for all, and dispatched one of his wives, Vonda White, to assassinate her, Anderson writes.

The two women had known each other for years, so it wasn't hard for Vonda to convince Noemi to go for a spin in her car on a chilly January evening in 1975. They drove to a canyon in the foothills of the rugged San Pedro Mountains. In that dark canyon, Vonda pumped the mother of five full of bullets before she could beg for mercy. Another of Ervil's wives, Yolanda Rios - who would herself be murdered a decade later - helped Vonda dig a shallow grave among the creosote bushes, into which they dumped Noemi's body. It has never been found. "You don't know how pleased the Lord is that that traitor is dead!" Ervil rejoiced when he heard the news.

He was still leaning on other fundamentalist leaders in Utah to cough up money and still getting no results. "Repent ye therefore or suffer destruction at the hand of God!" he thundered in one letter to his polygamous rivals. Again, they ignored him, but some beefed up their security measures.

One of the men Ervil tried to extort money from was Bob Simons, who lived on a 65-acre ranch near Grantsville, Utah, with his two wives. Simons, who had spent time in mental hospitals when he was younger, believed he was a prophet destined to convert Native Americans to the Mormon faith. He refused to cave into demands to join the Lamb of God church. Ervil was itching to get his hands on Bob's bucolic spread.

Using a false name, Ervil paid Simons several visits as a supposed disciple of the church. The two men argued for hours over their theological differences. At one point, according to Bradlee and Van Atta, the argument turned into a fierce wrestling match, and the two men groped and grappled about in the dirt as Simons' wives wailed and wrung their hands.

By the time Ervil started hitting on one of his wives, Simons was beyond annoyed, and he told Ervil to keep off his property.

Ervil realized the game was up. He gathered his henchmen around him and revealed that God wanted blood atonement for the false prophet.

"We are going to blow him up like a balloon," he railed, according to Anderson.

The men bided their time for a couple of months before paying Simons a last and fatal visit. On the drive out to Simon's ranch, Ervil's goons stopped by a gardening store to buy pickaxes, shovels and a bag of chemicals that hasten the deterioration of human flesh. They stopped again to dig a coffin-sized hole in the desert hills.

Simons knew they were coming - one of Ervil's emissaries, Lloyd Sullivan, had called on him a few days a before, claiming he now believed Simons was the true prophet after a conversation he'd had with some Indian chiefs. The chiefs had been searching for the white prophet who would lead them to salvation for a long time, the emissary said. Simons was ecstatic.

"How soon can I meet them?" he asked Lloyd.

Simons paid the gas money for the ride to his grave on the night of April 23, 1975. The moon-washed landscape was barren and forlorn, but the Indian chiefs had picked the time and the place and Simons wasn't about to protest. He leaned forward in his seat, peering through the windshield. For so many years, he'd sought to make contact with the elusive Native Americans, and now it was happening. He could hardly believe his good fortune and smiled as Lloyd pulled the car up beside a pile of rocks. Lloyd cut the engine, but left the headlights on.

Bob Simons
Bob Simons

Simons stood in front of the car, a hand raised to his brow as he peered into the distance, looking for his Indian flock. He was too focused, his heart pounding too hard, to notice two young men creeping up behind him. One of them raised a shotgun to the back of his head and squeezed the trigger, and the self-proclaimed Indian prophet slammed to the ground, dust swirling over him in the headlights' glare.

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