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Judge Issues Death Sentence for Cult Leader Who Killed Family

September 21, 1990

PAINESVILLE, Ohio (AP) _ A judge today sentenced a religious cult leader to death for killing a family of five last year on a farm.

Jeffrey Lundgren, 40, showed no emotion as he was led from the courtroom after Judge Martin O. Parks accepted the jury’s recommendation.

Lundgren, 40, was convicted Aug. 29 of five counts of aggravated murder and five counts of kidnapping in the deaths of Dennis and Cheryl Avery and their three children. They were bound, gagged and shot one at a time and then buried in a common grave in a barn.

Parks set an execution date of April 17, 1991, exactly two years after the slayings. But mandatory appeals likely would delay execution beyond that date. Ohio has not executed anyone since 1963, but the state has 100 people on death row.

A Lake County Common Pleas Court jury recommended Thursday that Parks issue the death sentence. The jury’s other choice was life in prison without parole for 20 or 30 years.

Lundgren, his wife and son were among 13 cult members arrested early this year in the April 1989 slayings at a rented farm in Kirtland, 30 miles east of Cleveland.

During his trial, Lundgren’s attorney admitted Lundgren shot the Averys.

And at a sentencing hearing Wednesday, Lundgren had told the jury in a five-hour unsworn statement that he was a prophet of God. He read from prepared notes and referred to the Bible and the Book of Mormon as the basis for his shooting the Averys.

Lundgren said he killed the Averys because Dennis Avery wanted to lead cult members to ″false gods.″

Assistant County Prosecutor Karen Kowall said Lundgren used religion to get what he wanted. ″He does exactly what he wants,″ she said. ″If he wants to sleep with other people’s women or wants women to get up and dance naked in front of him, he can find a way to convince people to do it.″

Lundgren was a lay minister of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Kirtland until he was defrocked in 1988. He later formed his own group.

Lundgren’s 19-year-old son, Damon, was convicted Tuesday of four counts of aggravated murder and four counts of kidnapping, and faces a possible death penalty. His sentencing hearing is set for Monday.

Jeffrey Lundgren’s wife, Alice, 39, was sentenced to five life prison terms on her conviction of conspiracy, complicity and kidnapping.

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