A prosecutor has won a small victory in his effort to salvage a few charges against members of a polygamist sect accused of operating a vehicle-theft ring, although most of the evidence has been ruled inadmissible.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Frank Galati granted a motion Wednesday to require the defendants to provide their fingerprints to the prosecution.Deputy County Attorney Randy Wakefield said he still hopes to prosecute four members of the Ervil Le-Baron polygamist clan on five to 10 counts of the 22-count indictment returned last August.
Wakefield conceded Galati's Feb. 8 ruling, that evidence gathered when the defendants were arrested July 1, 1988, was illegally obtained, would result in dismissal of most charges.
Galati set a March 3 hearing, which Wakefield said will determine what charges will remain against Cynthia LeBaron, 23; Heber Le-Baron, 24; Tarsa LeBaron, 23; and Douglas Lee Barlow, 28.
The case of a fifth defendant, Richard LeBaron, 17, has been sent to juvenile court.
The defendants are relatives of the late Ervil LeBaron, founder of The Church of the Lamb of God. Ervil LeBaron died in 1981 in Utah State Prison where he was serving a life sentence for the 1977 slaying of a rival polygamist leader.
Texas authorities have said Heber LeBaron and Barlow are suspects in three execution-style slayings on June 27, 1988. Duane Chynoweth, 31, and his daughter, Jennifer, 8, were shot in a pickup truck in Houston on June 27, the same day that Eddie Marston, 32, was shot in Irving, Texas. Authorities say Chynoweth and Marston reportedly had tried to break away from the Le-Baron clan.
The defendants were arrested in a north Phoenix motel room July 1, 1988, by police investigating a stolen pickup truck found in the motel parking lot.
Galati ruled Feb. 8 that all evidence obtained from the three motel rooms occupied by the defendants was inadmissible because it was gathered during an illegal search.
Authorities said the five operated a large vehicle-theft ring in Arizona that specialized in pickup trucks and four-wheel-drive vehicles.
The defendants remained in custody in Phoenix, and Galati said that the indictment stands despite his ruling on evidence.
"The indictment is not illegal," the judge said.
Galati set an April 18 trial date on any remaining charges.