The slaying of one polygamous cult leader and the apparently violent disappearance of another may not be as closely linked as once suspected, law officers say.
Although numerous 9mm gun shell casings were found where polygamist Daniel Ben Jordan was slain near Manti last October and at the blood-stained site from where his former colleague Leo P. Evoniuk disappeared in California a year ago, the casings apparently came from different guns."The FBI checked the physical evidence in both scenes, and they did not match," said Sanpete County Sheriff Chuck Ramsey. "About all they had in common was that they both had used 9mm weapons."
Both Jordan and Evoniuk were once lieutenants of the late polygamist Ervil LeBaron, who was convicted of ordering the 1977 murder of rival polygamist leader Rulon Allred in Murray. Also, both Jordan and Evoniuk had apparently crossed other LeBaron followers.
Jordan offended some - reportedly including Evoniuk - when he formed his own church in Colorado after LeBaron was imprisoned and was said to have ignored the care of LeBaron's family.
Jordan was shot several times on Oct. 19, 1987, while deer hunting near Manti. One shot to the head may have been a ritualistic sign that he was shot in a "blood atonement" - meaning his life was taken to pay for his sins.
After his funeral in Colorado, Aaron LeBaron - one of Ervil LeBaron's sons - was arrested for "menacing" Jordan's family after he allegedly brandished weapons and claimed revelations granting him life-and-death authority over it. The charges were later dropped.
Police said they had also sought two more of Ervil's sons for questioning about Jordan's death. Ramsey now says, "Unless someone decides to talk, I wouldn't expect any late-breaking developments in the case. There are people we would like to talk to, but they are fugitives in other matters, and I don't expect to find them soon."
Evoniuk had also crossed some members of LeBaron's family and had also formed his own church in California.
Investigators say that before LeBaron died, he supposedly gave joint control of his church to his son Arturo and Evoniuk. Followers claim that after a control dispute, Evoniuk or his disciples killed Arturo in Mexico. Evoniuk denied that in interviews.
On May 27, 1987 - five months before Jordan was killed - Evoniuk went to a business meeting near Santa Cruz, Calif., and never returned.
At the meeting site, police found a large amount of blood, a partial denture and numerous 9mm gun shell casings. Police were unable to verify whether the blood and denture belonged to Evoniuk because they could not find dental or blood-type records for him.
Former Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Detective Lloyd Gray said Evoniuk is either dead or used an elaborate scheme to fake his death.
Of note, Dan Jordan once faked his death in such a manner in Mexico. The FBI believed he had been killed in a gun fight until he was later found in a raid of other suspects in the murder of Rulon Allred.
Santa Cruz Detective Sgt. Ken Oakes said, "What we have is a very small amount of physical evidence, a man who vanished from the face of the earth along with his car and a long history. We assume he is dead but don't know.
"Unless a witness comes forward, or another murder occurs and the same person commits it and is caught and admits it, this will probably never be resolved."