One of polygamist leader Ervil LeBaron's widows - Rena Chynoweth - may be the most willing helper assisting Texas police to investigate this week's slayings of four of LeBaron's ex-followers.
That's because her name is probably next on the slayers' hit list, according to her Salt Lake lawyer, John O'Connell."Ervil threatened her when he was alive. He also threatened (ex-LeBaron disciples) Dan Jordan and Mark Chynoweth. They're both dead now. So that leads to one natural conclusion: She's in trouble," O'Connell said. LeBaron considered the trio, and others who left his group, as traitors.
Jordan was slain near Manti last October. On Monday, Rena's brothers - Mark and Duane Chynoweth - Duane's 8-year-old daughter, Jennifer, and longtime associate Eddie Marston were gunned down simultaneously at distant sites in Houston and Irving, a suburb of Dallas.
Police want to question three of Ervil's older sons - Heber, Andrew and Aaron - about the murders. Police fear the LeBarons may be seeking revenge against people their father felt had betrayed him.
Police from Houston and Irving planned to meet Friday with Salt Lake County attorney's office investigator Dick Forbes - a longtime follower of the LeBarons - to compare notes and information, said Irving Police Lt. K.L. Rowe.
"Maximum" police protection is also planned for the funeral Saturday of all four victims in Houston, said Houston Police Sgt. David Calhoon.
One sign that Monday's slayers may want Rena next is that Duane and Jennifer Chynoweth were shot after being lured to "Rena Street" to deliver an appliance at a vacant house.
It is ironic that Rena may now be at the top of a hit list among LeBarons, because she was once Ervil LeBaron's favorite wife.
The book "Prophet of Blood" by Ben Bradlee Jr. and Dale Van Atta said Ervil especially liked Rena because she - unlike other wives - would often talk back to him and challenge his ideas.
"Prophet of Blood" claims that Rena was ordered by Ervil to be one of two trigger women in the 1977 murder of rival polygamist Rulon Allred.
Rena was acquitted on murder charges - with the help of O'Connell. But Ervil was convicted of ordering the murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment at Utah State Prison. He died there in 1981.
O'Connell said that after Ervil's conviction, Rena began to re-evaluate her life with LeBaron and membership in his church.
"As time went on, things became more insane with that group - and that impacted her," he said. "Some of her past contact with the group endangered her children, such as living on the run in Mexico, (and) was not good for them. Her daughter apparently almost drowned on one occasion."
She left the group with her children. Sources say she has since remarried and lives a normal life as a homemaker. O'Connell would only say, "She has re-entered mainstream America."