The authors of "The Blood Covenant" say they didn't write their book to cash in on polygamist murders.
Rena Chynoweth, the 13th wife of polygamist Ervil LeBaron, writes in her book that she gunned down Rulon Allred in his Murray office in May 1977. Chynoweth was acquitted of the crime by a Utah jury in 1979, and her book is startling, for it contains her first public confession of the murder."For a couple of years afterwards, I was under the belief that `Look, I did God's will,' " Chynoweth told the Deseret News on Friday. "The single most painful aspect of my life has been living with the knowledge that Dr. Allred did NOT deserve to die, as I had been told he did. It is a burden I live with on a daily basis and will haunt me for the rest of my life."
Allred, the leader of a Salt Lake Valley fundamentalist polygamist group, was survived by eight wives and 48 children. Daughter Dorothy Solomon, a Park City author, is acting as a spokeswoman in her family's $130 million civil suit against Chynoweth.
The most unusual twist to the federal suit, which makes wrongful death and racketeering claims, asks that money from sales of "The Blood Covenant" be siphoned to the victim's family. While criminals have been barred from profiting from their crimes, courts have taken that legal route only in the cases of convicted murderers.
"The book, by the very fact of its being, makes a statement that crime does pay," Solomon said in an interview on Friday. "You can get away with murder. Crime has paid for Rena Chynoweth."
Solomon said she found peace after her father was murdered because she believed that a member of the LeBaron clan was acting under duress in order to save his or her own life. After reading "The Blood Covenant," Solomon now believes that was a false assumption.
"She hadn't been threatened. I think she committed the murder and wrote the book for the same reason. She killed my father basically because of narcissism. She wanted to feel viable (within LeBaron's clan). Now isn't that a nasty streak of feminism in a patriarchical culture?"
Confrontations between two of Utah's polygamist families exploded into the national spotlight Tuesday during the taping Tuesday of the syndicated Sally Jesse Raphael talk show. The show will be aired in Utah at 2:30 a.m. July 16 on Channel 2.
The show reached a climax when a man hired by Solomon walked out of the audience and surprised Chynoweth with a subpoena.
Chynoweth writes that although LeBaron may have used her body, he could never have her mind. Yet later in her book, she blames LeBaron for the murder. "She cannot have it both ways," Solomon said. "I told her: `I'm embarrassed for womankind that you can sit here in the 1990s and blame a man for your behavior.' "
Chynoweth said Solomon's lack of forgiveness surprised her. "Do the rest of the Allreds feel that way? I was totally under the impression that they understand that I was a victim, that I was used.
"I had been led to believe that Dorothy Solomon was a kind, understanding, forgiving person," wrote Chynoweth, in a prepared statement she faxed to the Deseret News after she cut short a telephone interview. "I was totally unprepared for the verbal attack she had planned.
"I did not go on the air to fight with her, to defend myself or my past actions. I thought the purpose of the show was to explain Ervil LeBaron's ability to control his followers by claiming authority and direct revelation from God and the danger his followers still present to society."
Chynoweth said she wrote the book to help the LeBaron children. Six of the younger LeBaron children - Chynoweth said her former husband had 13 wives and 57 children - disappeared from Utah foster homes in September 1989.
Investigators hope to find the children, who are technically classed as runaways, because they might be witnesses or have information about at least four polygamist killings in Utah and Texas. More than 20 murders are attributed to LeBaron and his followers.
"But my purpose in writing `The Blood Covenant' was not to profit from the misery of others, but to try and reach those kids out there. I am a naive, stupid person, I guess, to think that telling my story might help those kids."
Chynoweth's former husband, Ervil LeBaron, died in 1981 while serving a life sentence for plotting Allred's murder. Chynoweth took a new husband, whom she identifies only as John, two weeks after LeBaron's death.
She says she is hiding because she knows the LeBarons plan to kill her. "I live with the knowledge that I could wake up dead tomorrow morning." Yet she has made at least four appearances on national television shows, although an appearance on the Donahue show was canceled.
Although it was admittedly good television, a producer for the show said those in charge of the show were unaware of Solomon's plans to issue the subpoena. The producer said Raphael was also unaware of the Allred family lawsuit, which was filed secretly in Utah on Monday. Solomon admits the move was dramatic, but said it was the only way to serve the papers to Chynoweth, whose where-abouts is unknown.
Chynoweth's co-author, Dean Shaprio, said Chynoweth is not proud of the murder she committed while under LeBaron's spell. "It's not like she's proud of what she did and going around the country bragging.
"It was a very painful thing for her to discuss. I had to dig. There were many things that she had deliberately tried to block out."
Chynoweth agreed. "I've never spoke to anybody about it (the murder), not even my husband." She is afraid she will be manipulated again. "I'm scared that somebody will come along and try to use me again."
Shapiro said they tried not to sensationalize the account of the murder, which Chynoweth confesses on page 207 of the book. They wrote about it because their goal was to be "as open as possible."
"We couldn't have glossed over it. One thing I was careful about was not to dwell on the shooting itself. A lot of the true crime books will go into three pages on the gore of it."