clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:


Police finally realized Wednesday that for 12 days they have been holding Heber LeBaron, who is wanted for questioning in five Utah and Texas slayings of ex-followers of his father - late polygamist leader Ervil LeBaron.

Phoenix police spokesman Andy Anderson said LeBaron was arrested on July 1 with four companions while driving in a vehicle reported stolen in Texas.He was booked into the Maricopa County Jail under the assumed name of Henry Givens. But his true identity was learned after comparing his fingerprints with FBI records, and through talks with detectives in Houston - where three ex-followers of Ervil were gunned down on June 27. A fourth was killed the same day in the Dallas suburb of Irving.

Heber LeBaron, 28, is also wanted on federal charges for failing to appear in court on charges that he robbed a bank in Richardson, Texas. Two of his brothers - Andrew and Aaron - have also been sought for questioning about the slayings.

Houston police sent several investigators to Phoenix Wednesday to interview LeBaron. Irving police said they would decide later in the day whether to fly someone down also.

Sanpete County Sheriff Chuck Ramsey and other investigators from Utah - including the FBI - also arrived in Phoenix early Thursday to question Heber LeBaron about the Oct. 19 slaying near Manti of Dan Jordan, who was once a lieutenant of Ervil but later left his Church of the Lamb of God.

The other four people arrested with Heber in Phoenix were booked under the names of Joseph Michaels, 24; Lawrence Melton, 18; Christina Adams, 22; and Melanie Martin, 22.

Fingerprints determined that Michaels is really Doug Barlow, and he is really 28 years old. Anderson said police are working to determine whether the others also used assumed identities.

LeBaron, Barlow and Martin were charged with illegally conducting an enterprise for allegedly operating a stolen car ring, police said. LeBaron and Barlow were being held in lieu of a $13,700 bond, and Martin was held in lieu of a $3,425 bond.

While jail records did not show what charges may have been filed against Adams and Melton, Anderson said they are in custody.

Barlow and Martin are scheduled for a preliminary hearing on the illegal enterprise charges on Friday, and LeBaron is scheduled for a court appearance on Monday.

The four slayings in Texas last month brought the total of one-time Ervil LeBaron followers who have been murdered or mysteriously disappeared to at least 18. The LeBaron cult was also blamed for the slayings of at least five other rivals and critics outside the group.

On June 27 _ at the exact anniversary, down to the hour, of the murder of LDS Church founder Joseph Smith _ ex-LeBaron followers Mark and Duane Chynoweth and Duane's 8-year-old daughter, Jennifer, were gunned down in Houston. Eddie Marston was murdered at the same time in Irving.

Police said they suspect the same people who killed the Chynoweths and Marston also killed Jordan and may have been connected to the disappearance in California last spring of another Ervil LeBaron lieutenant, Leo P. Evoniuk.

Evoniuk never returned from a business meeting. A large number of bullet casings, blood and a partial denture were found at the meeting site. But police could not confirm the blood or denture belonged to Evoniuk _ and therefore cannot confirm that he was killed.

Of note, one of Evoniuk's associates _ Jordan _ once faked his death to throw lawmen off his trail. Some investigators in Utah suspected Evoniuk may have done the same so he could murder those he felt betrayed his "beloved" Ervil. Such suspicions were fueled even more when the killersin Texas were seen driving away in a Chevrolet Silverado truck similar to the one Evoniuk was last seen driving.

Most investigators, however, suspect that Ervil LeBaron's sons might possibly be carrying out a "hit list" prepared by their father before he died in Utah State Prison in 1981 while serving a life sentence for ordering the 1977 murder of rival polygamist leader Rulon Allred in Murray.

Investigators say they heard Ervil LeBaron considered several one-time followers who had left his group as traitors _ including the Chynoweths, Marston and Jordan. Others on the hit list reportedly include the Chynoweths' sister, Rena, who was once married to Ervil. A possible threatening sign to her was that Duane and Jennifer Chynoweth were killed on Rena Street in Houston after they were called to a vacant house there to deliver an appliance.

Police suspect the LeBaron sons might have also had a hand in Evoniuk's disappearance because they may blame him for the murder of another one of Ervil's sons, Arturo.

Arturo and Evoniuk shared control of Ervil LeBaron's church after his death but later had a falling out _ and each claimed sole control over it. Utah polygamists say Arturo was murdered in Caborca, Sonora, Mexico, on Dec. 17, 1983.

Also of note, Aaron LeBaron _ one of the three LeBaron sons wanted for questioning _ was in the campground near Manti where Jordan was killed. Just weeks before that, he and some of his relatives sought refuge with Jordan, saying they feared for their lives.

After Jordan's funeral in Colorado, Aaron reportedly brandished weapons and told Jordan's family that he had life and death control over them. He was arrested on "menacing charges," which were later dropped because the Jordan family said it felt it was not in immediate danger of physical harm.