When Mark W. Hofmann told parole board members that planting a homemade bomb on the driveway of a Salt Lake home was a game of curiosity that it didn't matter if a dog, child or woman was killed Linda Sillitoe and Allen Roberts were not shocked or even mildly surprised.
The two had predicted Hofmann's detached and disturbing explanation to his crimes.Since Oct. 15, 1985, when Hofmann's pipe bombs killed one of their associates, historian Steven F. Christensen, and a woman, Kathleen Sheets, who was murdered simply as a diversion, the two authors searched to understand a man who many described back then as "a nice young man from a fine family."
It was not enough for them to accept the explanation of the macabre murders that most people offered in exasperation that "the truth will never be known."
Instead, the two felt compelled to understand why the murders occurred.
"The murders were not perpetrated by a crazy radical from outside Utah. They came from right inside our community at the heart of the Salt Lake culture," Sillitoe said Tuesday in a Hinckley Institute address at the University of Utah.
Sillitoe and Roberts are authors of a book they have researched for two years titled, "Salamander: The Story of the Mormon Forging Murders." The book, based on interviews with more than 200 sources, is expected to be on the shelves of Salt Lake bookstores April 15.
Roberts, a writer and architect, was a friend of Hofmann's first victim, Christensen.
In 1985, Sillitoe was a reporter for the Deseret News, covering "the bizarre and chaotic bombings." She was one of the first to expose the unfolding story of forgery and fraud. Sillitoe left the newspaper to devote full time to unraveling and writing the Hofmann story.
The two were not surprised at Hofmann's answers during his Jan. 29 hearing before the Utah Board of Pardons because they believe they understand him.
"I don't think Hofmann is without an ability to love. But he has a limited ability to empathize or to know his own feelings," said Sillitoe.
In the parole board hearing, Hofmann conceded that he didn't know why he chose to wear his distinctive green letter jacket when he delivered the bomb to the downtown Judge Building the morning of Oct. 15, 1985. The testimony of two men who saw Hofmann in his jacket on the elevator holding a package addressed to Christensen were key witnesses for the prosecution.
Hofmann wore the jacket because he considered himself invincible and took pride in his ability to deceive, said Sillitoe.
In one of the interviews for the book, a woman described Hofmann as "the boy who never threw spit wads in church," said Sillitoe. That description has become the title of her favorite chapter in the book.
As a child, Hofmann knew how to please his strict, authoritarian parents by behaving well in church. However, Hofmann's childhood friends exposed him as a boy who relished tormenting cats a habit he enjoyed even as a young adult and spoofing his friends with magic tricks. He developed an interest in coins, which eventually led to his full-time occupation as a forger of currency and historical documents, said Sillitoe.
Their research led to the discovery of evidence that could have been used had the Hofmann case gone to trial.
For instance, Roberts discovered something investigators didn't have time to unearth. In reviewing request slips for books in the special collections department of the U.'s library, Roberts learned that Hofmann had used the alias "Mike Hansen" as early as 1979.
Another insight the book offers is information that Hofmann had planned another murder that he never carried out several years before the October 1985 bombings.
Their research resulted in a fuller understanding of the Hofmann's victims including his wife, Doralee. She was unaware of Hofmann's forgeries, which he produced in the basement of their home, because she was "busy raising four children and not interested in what was going on."
After the Board of Pardons had considered Hofmann's explanation of his forgeries and murders, he was ordered to spend his life in prison. That moment provided Sillitoe and Roberts with a sense of closure and satisfaction.
"Justice was finally done. Hofmann will at least spend the foreseeable future in prison," Sillitoe said.
"After hearing his own chilling explanations of his crime, we felt we had been fair in our book and understood him as far as we could."