While murdered ex-followers of late polygamist leader Ervil LeBaron were eulogized in Houston Saturday, the pastor wore a bullet-proof vest, a SWAT team watched mourners and police dogs sniffed the church and hearses for bombs.
But violence never came.The closest scare was when a Silverado truck matching the description of a vehicle used in the killings Monday arrived at the funeral. Houston Police Sgt. J.W. Belk said the truck was quickly searched, but no weapons were found and the truck was determined to be different than the suspect vehicle.
Belk said about 50 officers from Irving, Texas, Houston and Utah attended the funeral - which was closed to the press - to keep track of who came and to ensure that the killers would not return.
Fears about violence arose because LeBaron's group killed Utah polygamist Rulon Allred in 1977 mainly to lure Ervil's brother and rival, Verlan, out of hiding to attend Allred's funeral where a hit squad could kill him.
Verlan attended the funeral, but a three-man hit squad decided not to attack after seeing heavy police protection. One who was said to be in that hit squad was Eddie Marston - one of the ex-LeBaron followers killed in Texas on Monday.
The other victims Monday were brothers Mark and Duane Chynoweth, and Duane's 8-year-old daughter, Jennifer. The Chynoweth brothers were also once accused of being hit men for LeBaron but were never convicted. They and Marston left LeBaron's group - and were likely considered traitors - after LeBaron was convicted of Allred's murder.
LeBaron died in Utah State Prison in 1981. Of note, he was also buried in Houston because he had many relatives there - but he was buried in a different cemetery than where the four victims were buried Saturday.
Three of LeBaron's sons - Heber, Andrew and Aaron - are sought for questioning about the Texas murders. Heber is also wanted for fleeing federal prosecution in a 1986 bank robbery in Richardson, Texas.
And Aaron was charged last October with "menacing" the family of ex-LeBaron lieutenant Dan Jordan after Jordan was murdered. Those charges were later dropped.
Although the press was not allowed to attend the funeral Saturday, wire-service reports said Marston's mother, Anna Mae, who is a widow of Ervil LeBaron, sang a solo. Also, Glen Chynoweth of Ogden - brother of Mark and Duane - gave a speech praising his brothers as "gentle and great men."
Pastor David UnRue of the Spring Branch Church of God delivered the main eulogy while wearing a bullet-proof vest.
One person who says people should not be too quick to judge the slain Chynoweths and Marston is John O'Connell, the Salt Lake lawyer who represents the Chynoweths' sister, Rena.
He said in an interview, "I know some say that those who live by the sword should die by the sword. But if any of these individuals had engaged in violence - and that's a big `if' - they did so in the context of having been raised in a world view that made violence necessary and justified.
"As time went on, they tested their world view against their own internal conscience and came to question that world view. That questioning ultimately led to their deaths. These people were actually quite courageous in standing up for what they believed," he said.