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Jury Recommends Life Sentence for Cult Leader’s Son

September 27, 1990

PAINESVILLE, Ohio (AP) _ A man who helped his father ritualistically kill a family should receive a life sentence, a jury has recommended, saying he was not a ″cold-blooded murderer.″

Prosecutors had asked the jury to recommend the death sentence for Damon Lundgren, 19, who wept when he told jurors he does not want to die.

After about four hours of deliberation Wednesday, the jury recommended life without chance of parole for 20 years on each of four aggravated murder counts. It did not specify whether the sentences should run consecutively or concurrently.

″I definitely believe he was fearful and dominated by his father,″ juror Joyce Fiorito said. ″I do not believe he was a cold-blooded murderer.″

Lundgren will be sentenced Oct. 5 by Lake County Common Pleas Court Judge Paul H. Mitrovich, who cannot impose a more severe sentence than the one the jury recommended.

Lundgren’s lawyer, Albert L. Purola, said: ″We are grateful the jury did not impose the death sentence.″

Dennis Avery; his wife, Cheryl; and their three young daughters were lured one by one into a barn last year and then shot to death. Lundgren’s father, Jeffrey Lundgren, admitted to pulling the trigger.

Damon Lundgren was convicted Sept. 18 on four counts each of aggravated murder and kidnapping in the shooting deaths of Dennis Avery and his three daughters. Lundgren was acquitted in the slaying of Cheryl Avery.

Jeffrey Lundgren, a defrocked lay minister of a local church, cited Scriptures about atonement when he admitted to the slayings during his sentencing hearing earlier this month. The cult leader was sentenced to death on five counts of aggravated murder and kidnapping.

Trial testimony indicated Damon Lundgren helped wrestle Dennis Avery to the ground and helped tape his hands and feet before Avery was shot. Testimony showed that he also served as a lookout while the other four were killed.

The Averys were bound, gagged and shot on April 17, 1989, and buried in a barn where the cult lived in Kirtland, about 30 miles east of Cleveland.

Jeffrey Lundgren’s wife, Alice, was sentenced to five life terms in prison in prison for conspiracy, complicity and kidnapping in the Avery deaths.

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