Six children of dead polygamist leader Ervil LeBaron - all of them material witnesses in a Utah murder case - may have fled to Mexico, and some authorities fear they may already be reunited with siblings who continue their father's bloody vendetta against rivals and defectors.
Mike Hanks, director of the Utah State Division of Investigation, confirmed Tuesday the LeBaron children, ages 11 to 18, disappeared from Salt Lake area foster homes sometime Friday."They've probably headed to Mexico where they have family," Hanks said. "Beyond that we don't know a lot."
Authorities believe the children disappeared simultaneously as part of a prearranged conspiracy, but they aren't saying how they escaped or to whom they may have run. There are literally dozens of siblings, aunts, uncles and step-mothers with whom they could have found sanctuary.
Investigators say the children were part of an elaborate plot to murder a rival polygamist leader in 1987 - one in a string of at least 18 killings and disappearances over the past 20 years. Most recently, the LeBaron cult has been linked to:
-The June, 28, 1988, killings of three former members of the LeBaron cult and the daughter of one victim, who were shot to death in separate incidents in Houston and Irving, Texas. At least two of the victims were believed to have been involved in a 1977 polygamist shooting.
-The shooting death in Sanpete County of Daniel Ben Jordan, leader of a rival polygamist sect, on Oct. 16, 1987.
-The Dec. 17, 1983, murder of Arturo LeBaron, a brother of Ervil LeBaron, near Caborca in Sonora, Mexico.
-The May 27, 1987, disappearance of Leo Evoniuk, an ex-lieutenant of Ervil LeBaron, who vanished from his Santa Cruz, Calif., home. Blood and teeth fragments were found at the scene.
Police believe all the killings were carried out by members of the Church of the Lamb of God, a polygamist sect founded by Ervil LeBaron, who died in prison for the murder of Murray naturopath Rulon Allred.
Before his death, LeBaron reportedly wrote a book of commandments for his followers and issued a list of rivals and defectors targeted for murder and revenge. Many on that list have already been murdered or have disappeared.
Arturo LeBaron and Leo Evoniuk, both of whom were designated by Ervil LeBaron to lead the church, have been murdered or have disappeared.
Authorities had wanted the children to testify in connection with the murder of Daniel Ben Jordan, who was shot to death while hunting deer in Sanpete County. Jordan was a lieutenant of Ervil LeBaron who organized his own polygamist sect after LeBaron's death.
A few weeks before Jordan's death in 1987, Aaron LeBaron, 20, led a small band of LeBaron children to Jordan's polygamist compound in Bennett, Colo. The night of Jordan's funeral, Aaron LeBaron gathered Jordan's clan and proclaimed himself their new leader with power of life and death over them.
Weapons were drawn and LeBaron was arrested, though charges were later dropped. Aaron LeBaron and the other LeBaron children, who had been staying in Denver-area foster homes, later disappeared on the same night.
They were later apprehended in Chicago on federal warrants naming them as material witnesses in a grand jury investigation into the Jordan killing. Federal authorities believe the children have information that can link Aaron LeBaron to the murder, if the children will talk.
LeBaron cult members, many of whom are in prisons and jails around the United States, are believed responsible for dozens of auto thefts, bank robberies, burglaries, assaults, murders and other crimes.