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Detectives Says Documents Dealer “Removed Threat” With Pipe Bomb

May 14, 1986

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ Mark Hofmann, fearing excommunication and exposure as a dealer in forged documents, removed that threat with a pipe bomb and then killed a second person as a diversion, a police detective has testified.

Hofmann, 31, of Salt Lake City, is charged with two counts of capital homicide in two bomb slayings and with 30 counts of bomb-making, fraud and theft by deception.

Cross-examination Tuesday of police detective Jim Bell concluded Hofmann’s preliminary hearing, which lasted 12 days. Attorneys are to present arguments next Tuesday, after which Judge Paul G. Grant will decide whether Hofmann stands trial.

Prosecutors contend Hofmann turned to murder in a desperate attempt to hide a scheme in which he sold fraudulent documents, most of them relating to the history of the Mormon Church.

Asked by defense attorney Ronald Yengich what evidence showed a motive for the killings, Bell said investigators had learned that bombing victim Steven F. Christensen told a friend he would make sure Hofmann stopped selling documents.

Bell said Christensen told Curt Bench, manager of the rare books department at a Salt Lake City book store, that he would make sure Hofmann would be charged criminally and civilly and excommunicated from the church.

″If he removes Christensen, he removes that threat,″ Bell said.

Christensen, a collector of rare documents and a Mormon bishop, died Oct. 15 when a bomb exploded outside his office door. Kathleen Webb Sheets, 50, wife of former Christensen business associate J. Gary Sheets, was killed a short time later when a second bomb blew up outside her home.

Hofmann himself was seriously injured when a third bomb demolished his car on Oct. 16. Prosecutors believe that blast was accidental.

The second bomb was placed as a diversion, Bell said.

Hofmann also used an alias to purchase mercury switches and a battery pack, Bell said. All three bombs had such components, an explosives expert testified earlier.

In earlier testimony, forgery experts said they believe as many as 21 purported historical documents sold by Hofmann, including a controversial letter regarding the church’s founder, Joseph Smith, are forgeries.

Christensen bought the letter from Hofmann for $40,000 and later donated it to the church.

Prosecutors have said they believe Hofmann also was attempting to sell to at least three different buyers a collection of letters supposedly linked to an early church figure. Christensen was to confirm the authenticity of the collection, which never has been located, in a meeting with Hofmann and a potential buyer the morning he was killed.