Former Young Cult Member Tells of Drinking, Abuse With AM-Cult Deaths
Jan. 08, 1990
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A cult leader charged with murder in the slayings of five followers often beat children in the group and once planned an armed raid on a historic religious temple, said a young girl who lived among them.
''They would go to, like, rifle ranges and shoot. They had knives, too. I know they had machetes,'' said Bonnie Olivarez, who was 11 when she lived with the group in the spring of 1988.
''It was kind of like normal at first and then it got really weird,'' said Bonnie, who was with her mother in the cult and now lives with her father in the Kansas City area.
''They were all religious and everything, but they didn't love me,'' she told The Kansas City Star in an interview published Sunday.
The girl's mother, Deborah Sue Olivarez, is among 13 members of the cult charged with murder or conspiracy in the shootings of a five-member family whose bodies were found in a barn on the Kirtland, Ohio, farm where the group once lived.
The group's leader, Jeffrey Lundgren, his wife and their 19-year-old son were arrested Sunday at a motel near San Diego. Eight other people, including Bonnie's mother, were arrested last week.
Two of Lundgren's followers remained at large Sunday.
The victims, found shot to death last week in a barn on the farm in Kirtland, are believed to be Dennis Avery, his wife, Cheryl, and their three young daughters. Authorities believe they died in April, shortly before the group left Ohio.
Bonnie recalled that the group drank a lot and prepared for an assault on the Kirtland Historic Temple Site on May 3, 1988. The temple belongs to the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which Lundgren and his followers quit to form their own group.
In the days leading up to the planned assault, men in the cult donned camouflage clothing and took target practice, Bonnie said. On the morning of the planned attack, Lundgren went into the woods and came back saying God had told him to call off the operation, she said.
Much of Bonnie's story was confirmed by Kirtland Police Chief Dennis Yarborough, who told the newspaper that he got an anonymous tip the group planned to seize the temple, which is based in Independence and shares some beliefs with the Mormon Church based in Salt Lake City.
Lundgren kept a sizable and legal arsenal, Yarborough said. The weapons included bows and arrows, .22-caliber rifles and handguns, he said. Bonnie said the cult had about 20 rifles and handguns.
At night and on weekends in 1988, the group donned military fatigues and army boots and watched violent films, held firing practice in the barn and practiced how to recognize types of weapons and load and unload them in the dark, investigators said.
Bonnie said children in the cult were subject to ''sessions'' with Lundgren if they misbehaved, though she never had such a session.
''In a session he would yell at the top of his lungs,'' she said. ''He would hit you, and not with just his hands and stuff. He would use poles, too.''