Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Jeffrey Don Lundgren, Prophet of Death

Visions of the Prophet

By September of 1986, Jeff's teachings were becoming extravagant, at times including references to acts of violence and sexual acts. Once a Mormon is convinced that someone is in the same line of succession as Joseph Smith, that new prophet can demand unquestioned loyalty — some said even to the point of bloodshed. Under the "living prophet" concept, Jeff became the "point of authority" in his flock's eyes. Family, friends, advisers, their own reasoning, and even scripture take a back seat, as the prophet's directives become the final authority. Kevin Currie, no longer able to handle the teachings, decided to leave the group.

Shortly after Kevin's decision to leave, Jeff began to profess to his followers that he had begun receiving revelations that named two specific dates for the return of Christ. Jeff claimed that Jesus would at that time destroy everyone except those deemed righteous inside the Kirtland Temple.

When both dates for Christ's return failed, Lundgren's attention turned to "a vision" he had that the group was to seize the Kirtland Temple on May 3, 1988, a date with extreme religious substance to the group. It was also Jeff Lundgren's birthday.

The plan involved formulating a hit list in which no less than ten RLDS Church officials and area residents along with anyone who got in their way were to be executed in what was called a "cleansing" which would then "trigger an apocalypse." In preparation, the cult began to build an arsenal," ... marched in uniform, trained themselves to load and unload guns quickly, did calisthenics, studied military tactics and watched violent movies in preparation for combat."

During January 1987, rumors were rampant in the upper stratums of the RLDS concerning Jeff's heretical teachings. Kirtland Police Chief Dennis Yarborough had also heard the rumors of Lundgren's activities and questioned him. As expected, this led nowhere.

In February, Jeff instructed Dennis and Tonya Patrick to take up residence in an apartment building directly across from the Kirtland Police Station in order to "keep an eye on them."

The Avery Family(Taro Yamasaki/TIMEPIX)
The Avery Family
(Taro Yamasaki/TIMEPIX)

In April of 1987, Dennis and Cheryl Avery and their three daughters relocated to Kirtland from Independence Missouri. Cheryl Lynn Bailey Avery had been born in Washington State in 1947. The schoolteacher had met Dennis Leroy Avery, some seven years her senior, in 1970. The couple was married shortly thereafter. The couple bore three daughters: Trina Denise, born March 7, 1974; Rebecca Lynn, born January 23, 1976; and Karen Diane, born August 3, 1982.

Dennis and Cheryl had become involved with the Lundgrens during Jeff's scripture classes in Independence. Unbeknownst to them, Jeff and Alice did not particularly like the Averys and would often times chastise them, claiming that Dennis was weak and should not allow his wife to make all of the decisions in his family. Shortly after the Averys arrived in Kirtland, Alice confronted Jeff and asked him why he had allowed them to come? Jeff replied, "So I can get their money."

The Averys had made nineteen thousand dollars from the sale of their home in Independence. They turned over ten thousand of the money to Jeff after he convinced them that he would take care of their needs.

The home the Averys rented (David Lohr/Don Pender )
The home the Averys rented
(David Lohr/Don Pender )

On or around April 19, Jeff had a realtor show the Averys some houses that were up for rent in the area. They eventually settled on a small farm located on Chillicothe road. Jeff accompanied the couple while they looked at the home. The owner, Stanley Skrbis, mentioned at that time he also had a 15-acre farm available at 8671 Kirtland-Chardin Road, just south of Kirtland. Although Jeff said nothing at the time, he made note of the other available home.

On Labor Day weekend, Shar Lea Olsen came to Kirtland to visit with her friends Greg and Richard. Shar, born in September of 1960, had known Greg all of her life. After she met Jeff, she was extremely impressed and arranged to move in with the family. Shortly after Shar's visit, Kevin Currie returned to the group with hopes that he had been mistaken in his decision to leave.


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