Some of the evidence seized from members of a violent polygamist sect indicates they may have been in Texas around the time other sect members were killed, authorities say.
There is "some evidence found in the initial search that puts them there," deputy Maricopa County attorney Randy Wakefield said.Among the items, he said, was a Dallas newspaper from around the date of the slayings and a pickup truck stolen from Euless, Texas, that matches the description of a truck sought by Irving, Texas, police in connection with one of the slayings.
The Phoenix truck is a dark-brown or black 1987 Chevy Silverado and now bears license plates stolen from a different truck, Wakefield said. The truck Irving police are seeking was described by Irving police Lt. K.L. Roe as being a dark Chevy with plates from the Euless-Bedford area.
Also seized during an initial search, Wakefield said, were a .38-caliber gun and a .30-.30-caliber rifle. The weapons used in Texas are believed to have been .45-caliber, however, he said.
The sect has been linked to killings in Utah and to a disappearance in California as well as to the Texas slayings, but those arrested here have not been charged with any killings and are being held instead on robbery and theft-related charges.
Bond for two of those jailed here was increased Friday by more than ten-fold, to $560,000 apiece. The three others jailed here were held on lower bonds but faced immediate arrest by federal officials on Utah material-witness warrants if they won release on the Phoenix charges.
At least seven other members of the late Ervil LeBaron's sect, the Church of the Lamb of God, were still being sought for questioning, authorities said.
While Wakefield was seeking higher bonds, investigators from Irving, Houston and Salt Lake City conducted a new search of the vehicles and motel rooms, which had been searched by Phoenix police at a time when police believed they only were dealing with auto thefts.
"For a homicide, you look for different things," Wakefield said, adding that he hoped the initial search had not damaged potential murder evidence. "When we first searched the car, we didn't have any idea who the people were."
Police say the Phoenix arrests were triggered when a police sergeant running license checks July 1 on vehicles in a motel parking lot found the pickup truck reported stolen from Euless.
Officers did not initially realize that they were dealing with members of the LeBaron sect because those they interviewed and arrested all gave false names, Wakefield said.
Police were further hampered when the FBI failed to match fingerprints of one of those arrested, Heber LeBaron, with prints they already had of him, Wakefield said.
One of those the police questioned and released July 1 was a fugitive from an earlier Phoenix auto theft charge, Wakefield said, but no one recognized her at the time.
She had given her name as Pamela Newman when arrested last December, had fled before court appearances and identified herself on July 1 as Valerie Davies, Wakefield said.
"Her real name is Patricia LeBaron," he said. "She's one of the ones we let slip through our fingers."
Ms. LeBaron and at least three others of those questioned and released by Phoenix police July 1 are among 11 being sought as material witnesses in a grand jury probe of the Utah slaying, other officials said. Two other sect members sought as material witnesses in Utah slayings, Aaron and Andrew LeBaron, also are being sought for questioning by Texas authorities, and Houston homicide Lt. Richard Holland said police were "closing in" on them.
All of those in custody face a charge of operating an illegal enterprise. Heber LeBaron, 27, also is being held on a aggravated robbery charge stemming from a Richardson, Texas, savings and loan robbery, and Douglas Barlow, 28, also is being held on a Houston, charge of burglary out of an auto, police said.
Bond was set at $560,000 each, with a preliminary hearing tentatively set for Monday.
The other three in custody, Richard, Cynthia and Tarsa LeBaron, all are "either full, half or quarter or whatever sisters or brothers" of the other two, FBI agent John Loughney said.
One of the women faces charges of possession of a stolen weapon and a conspiracy-theft, according to Maricopa County Jail records, but which of the women it is is unclear because of the aliases under which they were booked initially, Maricopa County Sheriff's Sgt. Joe Rossano said. Richard LeBaron also faces a conspiracy-theft charge.
In addition to Patricia, Aaron and Andrew LeBaron, those at large and being sought on federal witness warrants in connection with the Oct. 16, 1987 slaying of Daniel Ben Jordan, 53, in Utah include Natasha Thelma LeBaron, Alex Zarate, Andreas Zarate and Linda Johnson, officials said.
The 1987 slaying of Jordan, a Bennett, Colo., man and the four deaths in Texas last month brought to 18 the number of Ervil LeBaron's former disciples, family members and critics who have died or disappeared in the last 22 years in a swath that cuts from Utah to Mexico.
The senior LeBaron, 56, died in 1981 of a heart attack at the Utah State Prison. He had been sentenced to a life term for masterminding the 1977 gunshot slaying of Murray, Utah, naturopath Rulon Allred, a rival polygamist.
In October 1987, Jordan, who had split with the LeBaron group and moved his family to Colorado, was shot to death in a deer-hunting camp in southeastern Utah.
Aaron LeBaron was questioned but never charged in that killing. He was arrested for menacing Jordan's family, with which he had lived for two months, but the charge was later dropped.
In Houston on June 27, Duane Chynoweth, 31, and his daughter, Jennifer, 8, were shot to death as they sat in a pickup truck parked outside a vacant house. About the same time, Chynoweth's brother, Mark, a 36-year-old son-in-law of Ervil LeBaron, was slain at an appliance business a few miles away.
And in Irving, Eddie Marston, 32, one of LeBaron's stepsons, was found shot to death the same day.