Led by neo-polygamist Fundamentalist Mormon patriarch Ervil LeBaron, this tribe of killers (many of them his wives and children) murdered at least 20 people -- mostly rival polygamists and other fringe Mormons -- over a 20-year period. LeBaron himself died in prison in 1981, but the killings were continued by his followers for years after his death.
Aaron LeBaron became the sect's high priest after his father's death. Like father like son; Aaron soon got into trouble with the law. In June 1988, as a "blood atonement" ceremony for leaving the cult, Mark Chynoweth and his brother Duane Chynoweth were shot to death in Houston, and Edward Marston was killed simultaneously in Dallas. A young girl was also murdered for witnessing one of the slayings. According to Ervil's Lamb of God 510-page tome, anyone leaving the cult had to be killed before believers could inherit God's kingdom on Earth.
In 1996 Aaron was arrested near the cult's colony in northern Mexico. A year later, on March 1997, he was convicted by a Houston court of directing the 1988 slayings of the three sect defectors and the girl. The jury also found him guilty of conspiracy to commit murder for hire, conspiracy to obstruct religious beliefs, racketeering conspiracy and racketeering. However, the murder-for-hire conviction was overturned.
On June 13, 1997, Aaron was sentenced to 45 years in prison for the killings and the racketeering charges. LeBaron was also ordered to pay $134,000 in restitution to help pay for the victims' funerals. All in all it seems to us that Aaron got away with a light sentence for orchestrating four deaths. As Assistant U.S. Attorney Mike Shelby said after the sentencing, "His father created a monster called the Church of the Lamb of God, but Aaron LeBaron gave that monster direction."
In a rambling statement in court, LeBaron said he wanted to get a degree in journalism while in jail and tell the public how to prevent crime. Three other cult members are already serving life sentences for their roles in the slayings. Authorities are still seeking LeBaron's half-sister, Tarsa LeBaron, who is believed to be hiding in Mexico or Belgium.
Here at the archives we have recieved the following e-mail from Aaron's younger sister, Jessica leBaron:
I am a survivor of the "LeBaron Cult".
The thing was a nightmare, that both Aaron LeBaron and I were born into. Just like any other children we believed and tried to do what we were taught. It was not fun. Perhaps we are not good folks, but when all the bad things happened we had never been to school, were isolated on a ranch and have a family history of mental illness (treatable with medication) and other factors that contributed to extreme fanaticism.
As a little child I believed all the stuff the "church" did was right. We are not evil, even though what we did is really bad.
I know that you all make your money with this sensationalism and rant about evil and all, but I just thought I'd let you know that (though we didn't act like it for a while there) we are human beings.
Hey, did your ancestors keep slaves? Did your folks believe that Black folks are inferior? Where were you when lynching and mob violence and discrimination were going on in this country?
A lot of folks don't have a choice of whether or not to discriminate,when they are little, but can grow up to change. We have grown up, just as many of the racists in this country have. Our bad ideas came about kind of like racism in this country did. It is not excused. We are sorry. Making all this adieu about evil?-well ask yourself.
I don't think you are making the world a better place by writing this stuff. It is not accurate. As a cult member I didn't have qualms about what I was doing but decided to do it anyway. Do you have qualms about writing this stuff but do it anyway? As a cult member my conscience was clear. After I found out that what we did was wrong, well that was a different story. That was the hardest thing I ever had to do; realize what kind of person I'd become. It really sucked! It was worth it though.
When he is not forced to lead a stupid church Aaron LeBaron rocks. I love him for helping us get out of the cult, for doubting it first, for opening his mind to the possibility of mental illness and seeing a doctor and tacking medication for manic depression. I love him for being brave enough to admit to me long before the cops got him that what we had done was wrong, when I was so shocked that it was wrong that I would not believe him. I admire him for getting rid of all my dads literature and replacing it with six copies of The New international Version of the Bible and suggesting that we read the New Testament.
Recognizing that what you did is wrong is one of the hardest things that a human being can do. Yet, he went further and discovered that everything we had believed was b.s. as well. Twenty four is a young age to discover such difficult truths.
Our deeds had been done before this and of course people were mad and prosecuted him. Society got revenge. You all got something to write about. But, the truth is a different story.
If you are black madam or sir, what do you think about the white folks who are sorry that their folks were so ignorant and prejudiced, and got over it? Do you think that those folks merit compassion? I think that my brother and I merit compassion.
Your LeBaron Cult story gives me a stomach ache so I wrote this instead of tacking pain medication.