Siege Brings Sorrow over Church Bombing, Joy over Business
MARION, Utah (AP) _ Residents of this mountain valley have welcomed the posses of police and reporters that invaded their community for the second time in a decade, even as they mourned the Mormon chapel bombing that brought them into their midst.
An army of some 100 police officers started its vigil outside the farm of slain polygamist John Singer on Saturday, just hours after a bomb blast heavily damaged the Mormon Church’s Kamas Stake Center. Damage to the 12-year- old chapel was estimated at $1 million.
It was a nightmarish reprise for this tiny town of mostly farmers and lumber workers in the Kamas Valley.
Nine years before, almost to the day, Marion was thrust into the spotlight when lawmen gunned down the pistol-toting Singer during an arrest attempt.
Addam Swapp, believed to be the new patriarch of the Singer clan, and Singer’s widow, Vickie, reportedly have accepted responsibility for the blast, calling it a divinely inspired blow against the Mormon Church, which they blame for Singer’s death.
The chapel, nestled amid the breath-taking scenery of snow-covered pastureland embraced by the Uinta Mountains to the east and the Wasatch Range to the west, was the social focal point for the town of 300.
Now scarred by the blast, its parking lot jammed with police vehicles, trailers and camera crews, the church has become the command post for federal, state and local law officers. Instead of hymns and prayers, its brick-and- cinderblock walls echo with the hiss of radio traffic and the clanking of police rifles.
Some 30 reporters stomp around the lot in a futile effort to keep warm.
″I’m heartsick, devastated. It was a lovely building. It’s like losing a friend,″ said Patsy Lewis, who lives across the street from the stake center, about half a mile from the Singer compound. Her husband, Max, is the chapel’s janitor.
″If there was one question I could ask Vickie Singer, it would be what have I ever done that she would want to hurt me like this? They wanted to hurt the community, but also the church and the state, and they have,″ she said.
Doris Louder said the two Mormon congregations that met in the stake center now must worship in Francis and Peoa, seven and two miles from the chapel, respectively.
Summit County Commisioner Jim Soter, a Marion resident and member of the unincorporated community’s own governing body, the Marion Water Works, said most residents relaxed when Monday’s anniversary of Singer’s death passed without incident.
″As time goes on ... I think the fear of the people will be in a diminished state. But there always will be concern until the people responsible for the bombing are brought to justice,″ Soter said.
While decrying the potential for violence in the crisis, local merchants say the influx of reporters and police has been good for business in Marion and nearby Kamas, a sister community of 1,000 people about three miles away.
Veda Hale, owner of a Kamas gas station and convenience store, said she sold $70 worth of eggs, bacon and milk for a lawmen’s breakfast. Journalists also were keeping the cash registers ringing, buying volumes of sandwiches and snacks, she said.
Kevin Hoyt, manager of Kamas’ largest supply store, said authorities are buying enough food from him to feed 30 to 50 people daily. However, he said the siege and its resulting drain on supplies have not hurt business with ″the regulars who also have to eat.″
Kamas Inn owner Joe Mueller says he’s enjoying the brisk traffic at his eight-room hostelry with a single bathroom. The inn and his gas station have enjoyed $2,000 in additional business since the siege began, he said.
In fact, he said, ″I don’t care if it lasts for months as long as it ends well with nobody hurt.″
Grocery stores, gas stations and restaurants have become unofficial gathering places for townsfolk wanting to discuss the events.
″They talk about it and wonder what is going on. We hear so many different stories,″ Hoyt said. ″We feel it’s too bad it has gone as far as it has.″
Hoyt said Vickie Singer and her daughters - two of whom are married to Swapp - were regular shoppers.
″They are as nice as the next person and never said anything about violence,″ Hoyt said. ″But Addam doesn’t say much.″
″There’s a lot of people who are saying that the dirty son-of-a-gun is getting his and others who just feel worry for them,″ Hale said.