Some bloody anniversaries occur next month for disciples of dead polygamist leader Ervil LeBaron, and police throughout the West worry they may trigger more violence unless more members of the LeBaron family are rounded up.
That's because last month at 4 p.m. on June 27 - the exact date and time of the murder of LDS Church founder Joseph Smith - four people who had left Le-Baron's Church of the Lamb of God were gunned down in simultaneous attacks hundreds of miles apart in the Texas cities of Houston and Irving.Next month, anniversaries of the deaths of Ervil Le-Baron and two of his brothers - Verlan and Joel - occur on Aug. 16, 19 and 20. Police hope those dates are not commemorated with murders, too.
Aug. 16 is the seventh anniversary of Ervil's death by heart attack in Utah State Prison while serving a life sentence for ordering the death of polygamist Rulon Allred and for attempted conspiracy to kill his rival and brother Verlan.
Ironically, Verlan was involved in a fatal crash near Mexico City on the same day that Ervil died in 1981. Verlan lived for a few days but finally died Aug. 19 - the second major anniversary next month.
The third anniversary is Aug. 20. On that day in 1972, another brother and rival of Ervil's, Joel LeBaron, was murdered in Mexico, supposedly by some of Ervil's followers.
"We're very aware of all of those dates," said Houston Police Lt. Richard Holland. "We don't want to comment on how concerned we are about them."
But Irving Police Lt. K.L. Rowe said, "It would concern me very much if I had any other relatives of the LeBarons living around here, but most are down around Houston. I would worry especially because many of the LeBarons that we want to talk to about the murders are still at large."
But several were picked up by luck recently in Phoenix. They include Ervil's son, Heber; a stepson, Doug Barlow; and other family members Cynthia, Teresa and Richard LeBaron.
The five were arrested for allegedly running an auto theft ring, and they gave false names to police. Law officers learned their true identities Wednesday after studying fingerprints.
Bail for Heber LeBaron and Doug Barlow was increased Friday to $560,000 each, while the other three in custody have had a federal hold placed on them at the request of the FBI to ensure they remain in custody after the federal charges are resolved.
Mike Hanks, director of the Utah Division of Investigations, said law officers are still searching for at least five other LeBaron family members for questioning in the Texas murders and in the Oct. 19 murder of ex-LeBaron lieutenant Dan Jordan near Manti. Police especially are looking for Andrew and Aaron LeBaron.
Heber LeBaron, one of the five LeBarons held in Phoenix, is the major suspect in the murder of ex-Le-baron disciple Eddie Marston in Irving, Lt. Rowe confirmed Friday.
That's because the stolen truck that Heber was found with in Phoenix was stolen from Euless, Texas, which borders Irving. The truck matches the general description of a pickup witnesses said Marston's murderer drove.
"It's a heck of a coincidence that the truck was stolen from here a few days before the murder, and Heber was found with it four days later in Arizona. There's a good possibility he did it (the murder); now we have to prove it," Rowe said.
His department had an investigator in Phoenix on Friday looking at the truck and going through numerous documents that police found in the LeBaron's hotel room. Many reportedly detail some stolen car operations, and police hope they may contain evidence about the murders.
But while the anniversaries approach and some suspects are still at large, police and some Utah polygamists said they worry about possible violence especially on Aug. 16 - the anniversary of Ervil's death.
Utah polygamists say Ervil's disciples see several parallels between his death and Joseph Smith's. And since the anniversary of Smith's death was marked by violence, Ervil's may be too.
Some of the similarities they may see include that Ervil and Smith both died while imprisoned. And both were put in jail largely through the efforts of former followers. Police worry that Ervil's disciples may be seeking revenge against people who left his group and who are considered traitors.
At the top of the list may be Rena Chynoweth, a widow of LeBaron and sister of two of the men killed in Texas last month. One of them, Duane, and his 8-year-old daughter, Jennifer, were killed after being lured to a vacant house on "Rena Street" - which police worry is a sign that the widow may be a target.
Thomas A. Green, an independent polygamist and historian of polygamist groups, said the anniversaries next month of the deaths of the three LeBaron brother may not bode well for Ervil's three surviving brothers - Ross, Floren and Alma - each of which refused to follow Ervil and have their own churches.
He worries ex-followers of Ervil may also try to attack them. Ross lives in West Valley City, where he has formed his own church; Alma guides his own church in Mexico; and Floren has founded a polygamist colony in the central American country of Belize, Green said.