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Kristan Jacobsen, Kristan Jacobsen, Deseret News
1995 file photo of John Pinder with pet African lion Sinbad.

SALT LAKE CITY — The parents of convicted double murderer John Pinder have sued Duchesne County Sheriff Travis Mitchell seeking the return of 26 guns that were seized from their ranch, where their son was living at the time of his 1998 arrest.

The suit filed Monday in U.S. District Court accuses Mitchell of illegally depriving Robert Pinder and his wife, Virginia, of an arsenal that includes 14 rifles, nine shotguns, three handguns, two crossbows and a large, but unspecified, amount of ammunition. The Pinders are also seeking the return of other items seized from the ranch by the sheriff's office, including "all family photographs."

"None of the items of personal property listed above were used or connected with the offense alleged to have occurred on the ranch property," the couple's lawsuit states.

The sheriff has responded to all of the Pinders' requests to release the guns and other property by stating that they are "associated with an ongoing criminal case," according to the federal lawsuit.

Duchesne County Attorney Stephen Foote said Wednesday that he had not yet seen the Pinders' lawsuit and therefore could not comment on it.

John Robert Pinder, 53, kidnapped former ranch employees Rex Tanner and June Flood from their Duchesne County home on Oct. 25, 1998, with the help of ranch hand Filomeno Valenchia Ruiz. The two men took Tanner and Flood to the Pinders' JJNP Ranch west of Lake Canyon, where they killed them and then used explosives to try to dispose of their bodies.

Ruiz, 47, pleaded guilty to two counts of murder, a first-degree felony, in a plea deal with prosecutors that led to the dismissal of eight other felony charges against him and secured his testimony against Pinder. He was paroled in October 2008.

Pinder — who gained notoriety in Duchesne County before the killings because he owned an African lion as a pet — claimed at trial that Ruiz acted alone and that he lived in fear of him. A jury, however, convicted Pinder of 11 felonies, including two counts of aggravated murder. He was sentenced to serve two consecutive life sentences with the possibility of parole. His first parole hearing is slated for November 2028.

To date, all of Pinder's appeals have been denied, but he still has a petition for post-conviction relief pending in 4th District Court. If that petition is granted, Pinder could receive a new trial.

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