Notorious incidents over the years

Published: Sunday, March 16 2003 12:00 a.m. MST

Many homegrown zealots have turned the national media spotlight on Utah over the past 30 years, usually because of horrific murders. Among the most notorious incidents that resulted in national attention:

1972 — Followers of polygamous cult leader Ervil LeBaron killed Joel LeBaron as part of a plot for Ervil to wrest control of the dominant polygamous church of the time, based in Mexico but with followers in Utah. Ervil renamed the church the Church of the Lamb of God, and began ordering his followers to kill rival polygamists.

The highest-profile victim was Murray naturopath Dr. Rulon Allred, whose 1977 murder in Murray eventually led to Ervil LeBaron's conviction on homicide charges. LeBaron died in prison in 1981, but his followers continued to commit murders in Mexico, Texas and Utah throughout the 1980s.

The tales of murder are meticulously documented in several books, including "Prophet of Blood," co-written by former Deseret News reporter Dale Van Atta.

1975 — Polygamist Alex Joseph starts the Church of Jesus Christ of Solemn Assembly and immediately clashes with federal authorities opposed to the group's "homesteading" on federal land in southern Utah. The standoff generated international headlines, and Joseph was soon joined by more than 100 individuals, most with anti-government beliefs, and scores of reporters.

The standoff with Joseph, a dozen wives and several followers was settled when the group agreed to move to Glen Canyon City, today called Big Water, where some of Joseph's wives and children still live. Joseph died several years ago after serving as Big Water mayor.

1978 — A man calling himself Immanuel David (he named himself, as did Brian David Mitchell, after the Old Testament reference to Jesus), led a family religious cult in which David claimed he was God.

David, 38, drove his truck up Emigration Canyon, stuck a hose from the tailpipe into the passenger compartment, and killed himself. Three days later, his wife, Rachel, coerced or threw their seven children from an 11-story balcony railing of what is now the Shilo Hotel in downtown Salt Lake City, where the family had been living. Rachel then jumped herself, as horrified high-rise construction workers, building a hotel across the street, screamed at her to stop killing the children.

One daughter, also named Rachel, then 15, survived, although today she suffers mental and physical disabilities.

David, a former LDS missionary who was excommunicated from the church, was well-known in the Utah religious subculture. He bought religious texts at Sam Weller Books and held religious debates with those who would listen.

Even though most of the David family died on West Temple below the hotel balcony, the cult lives on, members still believing David was God. Rachel, now 40 and in a wheelchair from her injuries, lives with other cult and family members in Aurora, Colo. Another group lives in Spokane, the Spokane Spokesman Review reported in 2000.

1979 — Summit County and state law enforcement officers, impersonating news reporters, tried to arrest John Singer, a polygamist and Mormon fundamentalist in trouble with the law for refusing to allow his children to attend public schools.

When Singer turned to run from arrest, he was shot in the back — a shooting that was labeled murder by other religious fundamentalists and anti-government conspiracy theorists. Police said he brandished a gun.

In 1988, Singer's son-in-law Addam Swapp, bombed an LDS stake center in Kamas in retaliation for Singer's death. A 13-day standoff with police ensued and a Department of Corrections officer was killed. Swapp and members of the Singer family believed John Singer would be resurrected and save them from the siege.

Timothy Singer was recently released from a federal prison in Arizona and was advertising in a local publication for female companionships.

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