This week marks the anniversary of a significant event in one of the most bizarre, complex and ultimately tragic criminal cases in Utah history.
On October 15, 1985, Mark Hofmann — one of the most accomplished forgers and counterfeiters of all time — killed two prominent Utahns with homemade bombs in a desperate attempt to thwart the discovery of his fabrications.
Following these bombings, police investigations revealed Hofmann had forged a number of historical documents including a previously unknown Emily Dickinson poem, Founding Fathers' signatures and — most famously — the Salamander Letter, which presented a narrative of Joseph Smith’s discovery of the gold plates that countered The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' account, including Smith's description of an angel that appeared to him as a white salamander.
With information gathered from the Deseret News archives, here's a look back at the strange events that preceded and followed the tragic murders:
1966–68: At age 12, Hofmann begins collecting coins and altering them so other collectors will find them more valuable. At age 14, he invents a forgery technique he believes is undetectable.
1973–75: Hofmann serves an LDS mission in England, where he develops an interest in Mormon history.
1980–Oct. 1985: Hofmann makes his living through forgery, selling many purported Mormon documents to the LDS Church. These include the Anthon Transcript, which seemed to contain Egyptian characters Joseph Smith had copied from the gold plates, and the famous Salamander Letter. According to LDS Church historian Richard Turley, the church has found 446 Hofmann forgeries in its collections.
Oct. 15, 1985: Hofmann kills document collector Steve Christensen and the wife of Christensen’s former employer, Kathy Sheets, with two homemade bombs delivered in packages.
Oct. 16, 1985: Hofmann is injured when a third bomb explodes in his car, leading police to connect him to the previous bombings.
Jan. 23, 1987: Hofmann pleads guilty to two counts of second-degree murder and theft by deception and is sentenced to life in prison.
Aug. 6, 1987: In a speech delivered at Brigham Young University, LDS Church apostle Elder Dallin H. Oaks addressed Hofmann’s forgeries and urged church members to be "more cautious" when they encounter claims about church history.
August 1988: Hofmann's wife, Doralee Olds Hofmann, files for divorce from her incarcerated husband, citing "irreconcilable differences."
Sept. 15, 1988: Hofmann attempts to take his own life through a drug overdose in prison. He survives but suffers tissue damage to his right arm.
July 2005: Twenty years after the bombings, Doralee Olds speaks publicly about what her life was like with her ex-husband, Mark Hofmann.19 comments on this story
September 2010: Forensic document examiners link Hofmann to a forgery implicating William Edwards as a participant in the 1857 Mountain Meadows Massacre. "I think we are going to be discovering stuff Mark Hofmann did for years to come," a historian concludes.
January 2011: A four-page letter titled "A Summary of My Crimes," written by Hofmann to the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole in 1988, is released to the public. "I felt like I would rather take human life or even my own life rather than to be exposed," he wrote.
December 2015: Hofmann is moved out of maximum security prison at the Utah State Prison in Draper to the state prison in Gunnison.