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Unsealed Documents In Mormon Bombing Case Link Blasts To Forged Letter

February 6, 1986

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ The man charged in two fatal bombings had arranged to sell to two of his intended victims a forgery of the ″Salamander letter,″ which contradicts the origin of the Mormon Church, court documents show.

Mark W. Hofmann, 31, faces 28 counts, including two of capital homicide, one of construction or possession of an infernal machine, two of delivery of an infernal machine, 13 of theft by deception and 10 of communications fraud.

He was arraigned Tuesday as prosecutors kept mum about details of their case against the Mormon documents dealer. On Wednesday, 5th Circuit Judge Paul Grant lifted an order sealing the probable cause statements, saying publication of information in the documents would not affect Hofmann’s right to a fair trial.

Grant continued until today a hearing to determine whether bail would be set for Hofmann, who remained in the infirmary of the Salt Lake County Jail.

Seven of the theft by deception counts charge Hofmann with defrauding The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, one alleges he defrauded Gordon B. Hinckley of the church’s First Presidency and another charges that he defrauded Steven Christensen and J. Gary Sheets.

On Oct. 15, Christensen, 30, was killed by a package bomb outside his downtown office, and Sheets’ wife, Kathleen, 50, was killed later that day when she picked up a booby-trapped package addressed to Sheets and left outside their suburban home.

The ″white salamander letter,″ dated 1830, received widespread publicity earlier and shook the faith of some church members. It purportedly was written by Martin Harris and contradicted the church’s official version of how church founder Joseph Smith obtained the ″Book of Mormon.″

Christensen and Sheets were both involved in efforts to authenticate the document, which Christensen purchased and donated to the church.

The probable cause statements said Hofmann had sold seven documents to the church between October 1980 and April 1985; including papers purported to be the ″Anthon Transcript,″ dated February 1828; the ″Joseph Smith blessing″ dated January 1844; four handwritten notes signed by Brigham Young and others; the ″E.B. Grandin Contract;″ the ″Nathan Harris Book of Common Prayer,″ and two letters said to have been written by church members during the 1800s.

All of the documents were turned over to George Throckmorton, a documents examiner with the attorney general’s office who determined that all the church documents, including the Harris letter, were forged, the statements said.

Existence of some of the documents had not been publicly known before Wednesday.

Among the court documents is a statement that Christensen asked a man named Curt Bench to help him find Hofmann over a serious matter that could result in possible criminal charges.

Another statement says Robert Pitts, a business associate of Christensen’s, overheard part of an Oct. 10 discussion between Hofmann and Christensen, during which Christensen said in a loud, agitated voice, ″You can’t hide that.″

The statements said Hofmann approached several people about buying the McLellin Collection, purported documents from the 1830s by Mormon apostle William McLellin, who left the church after a falling out with Smith.

Police have said there was no evidence Hofmann ever had such a collection but the documents say he showed a piece of papyrus to several people and claimed it came from the collection.

The probable cause statements said Leslie Kress and Kenneth Rendell of Newton, Mass., said they had sold the papyrus to Hofmann and it was never a part of the McLellin Collection.

On April 23, Hofmann entered into an agreement with coin dealer Alvin Rust in which Rust agreed to give Hofmann $150,000 to travel to New York City to buy the collection, the court documents said.

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