"Jury convicts two founders of apocalyptic Gatekeepers cult in killing of

(AP, September 29, 2001)


EVERETT, Wash. (AP) -- The founder of an apocalyptic cult and a friend were convicted Friday of first-degree murder in the shooting death of another member who had accused the founder of writing a bad check.

It was the second time a jury heard the case. At their first trial in May, jurors deadlocked 11-1, with a majority voting to convict.

The group's leader, Christopher Turgeon, 37, claims to be a modern manifestation of the biblical prophet Elijah.

Turgeon told his followers in the Gatekeepers that God wanted them to kill people who Turgeon believed to be wicked -- including homosexuals, doctors who perform abortions and people who believe in equal rights for women.

Jurors on Friday found Turgeon and fellow Gatekeepers member Blaine Applin, 31, guilty of shooting Dan Jess, 40.

Neither suspect denied taking part in the March 29, 1998, slaying. Their lawyers had argued the two were insane; after the first trial, Turgeon denounced his lawyer as "an agent of Satan" for arguing the insanity defense.

Prosecutors had argued that the two were both cognizant of right and wrong.

"These men were not zombies. Their free will had not been destroyed," said prosecutor David Kurtz.

Applin and Turgeon were linked to the shooting after their capture in a string of San Diego-area robberies and other crimes in July 1998. Turgeon was sentenced to 89 years in prison for his part in those crimes. Applin received a 101-year sentence.

Turgeon started the Gatekeepers as a Bible study group in 1991. The dozen or so members, including children, moved several times north of Seattle because of concerns they would be investigated by state child protective services.

Finally, in 1997, they moved to Pala, Calif., about 40 miles north of San Diego. Jess, a part-time tree cutter, declined to go. He was targeted after accusing Turgeon of writing a $2,000 bad check to a transmission shop.

Turgeon and Applin drove to Jess' trailer home, where Applin shot him seven times, court documents said.

Applin is scheduled for sentencing Oct. 20, and Turgeon on Oct. 30.

Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All rights reserv