Alice Lundgren Considered Husband a Prophet, Prosecutor Claims
PAINESVILLE, Ohio (AP) _ A cult leader’s wife saw herself as married to a prophet, so she helped him plan the murder of five family members who belonged to the sect, a prosecutor charged Wednesday as the woman’s trial opened.
″Jeffrey Lundgren became a self-proclaimed prophet - revered, a seer,″ Assistant Lake County Prosecutor Karen Lawson said as trial began for a weeping Alice Lundgren, 39. ″Alice Lundgren was the prophet’s wife.″
But defense attorney Joseph Gibson told the Lake County Common Pleas jury that evidence would show Mrs. Lundgren was manipulated by her husband and feared for the safety of herself and her children.
Mrs. Lundgren is charged with five counts each of conspiracy and complicity to commit aggravated murder and five counts of kidnapping. If convicted, she faces a possible life prison term for the 1989 deaths of fellow cult members Dennis Avery, 49; his wife, Cheryl, 42; and daughters Trina, 15; Rebecca, 13; and Karen, 7.
Authorities have said the killings may have been considered a spirit- cleansin g by the other cult members, or may have been motivated by disputes with the Averys.
Gibson said the evidence would show that Mrs. Lundgren, the first of 13 co- defendants to go on trial, wasn’t involved in the slayings allegedly committed by her husband at a farm in nearby Kirtland where the cult members lived.
″He brought the Averys out to the barn and systematically executed them, but Alice wasn’t there,″ Gibson said.
Mrs. Lundgren cried as witnesses described the crime scene and the autopsies conducted on the victims, who had been bound and gagged with duct tape before they were killed.
Kirtland Police Chief Dennis Yarborough testified that he started investigating the cult on April 28, 1988, based on information received by an informant concerning possible crimes. He did not name the informant.
Yarborough said he went to the farm April 18, 1989 - the day after the murders - with five police officers and 20 FBI agents to question cult members to make sure they felt free to leave the group if they wanted to.
None wanted to leave, Yarborough said; the badly decomposed bodies of the Averys weren’t found for another 8 1/2 months.
Ms. Lawson contended Mrs. Lundgren had prepared a final meal for the victims, then left the farm with her children, at her husband’s direction.
After the Averys were led into a barn and shot, Ms. Lawson said, ″Alice Lundgren called the farm to see if it was all right to come back yet.″
Testimony began after the jury toured the 1 1/2 -story Kirtland farmhouse and barn with Mrs. Lundgren, who also wept during the tour.
Jeffrey Lundgren is a defrocked lay minister of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The church is separate from the Salt Lake City-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormons, although the two churches share some beliefs.
Lundgren faces an Aug. 13 trial on five counts of aggravated murder and five counts of kidnapping, and could receive the death penalty if convicted.
Seven other defendants, including the Lundgrens’ son, Damon, are awaiting trials, and four others have pleaded guilty to a variety of charges.