Kirtland cult killings examined as ID spotlights self-proclaimed prophet and mass murderer Jeffrey Lundgren

This week Murder Among Mormons spotlights the murderous cult formed by Jeffrey Lundgren.

Lundgren grew up around Independence, Missouri, and his parents were members of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

According to neighbours he had quite an abusive childhood, with his father beating him. Though the pair seemed to have gotten closer when Lundgren got a little older. As a teen they would go hunting together and the teenager became adept with a rifle.

At college he met Alice Keeler and the two were soon smitten and were married in 1970. Three children later and after a four year stint in the U.S. Navy and Lundgren was back in Missouri.

All through this period he continued his religious practices and by 1987 he’d attracted several followers, though he’d actually been dismissed as a lay minister by the Church.

By the next year one of his neighbors told police that she thought their was a cult operating from the house. It seems Lundgren’s son had told other kids that demons would rise up out of the earth.

At some point Lundgren had a revelation and told his followers, bunbering around 12, that they had to move to Kirkland, Ohio, and seize the church he used to act as a tour guide to the historic Kirkland Temple.

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However, out of the twenty followers there was a family of five who did not live with the others in Lundgren’s home. Dennis Avery and his family had their own home and although they were loyal to the cult, Lundgren saw this as a sin.

In April, 1989, he had some of the cult members dig a hole inside a barn. He then arranged a trip into the wilds and used this premise to lure Dennis Avery into the barn to help with camping equipment. He was shot with a stun gun and then gagged. Still conscious, he was dragged to a waiting Lundgren and shot twice in the back.

His wife followed and she was shot in the breasts and abdomen. The two teenage girls were shot in the head and the Avery’s 6-year-old Karen was shot in the chest and head.

By chance the next police arrived at the farm to talk about his activities but they did not suspect that five people had just been massacred. It would nine months before a tip off led police back to the barn where the Avery family were found.

Soon the FBI were involved in a nation wide manhunt and by 1990 the Lundgrens and eleven members of their cult were arrested.

He was found guilty and handed down the death penalty. His wife Alice was given five life sentences totalling 140 years. Their son, Damon, received a similar term and various other members served 20 years for aiding Lundgren. One exception was Ronald Luff, who helped Lundgren plan and execute the murders, he was sentenced to 170 years to life.

Jeffrey Lundgren was executed on October 24, 2006, in Lucasville, Ohio.

Murder Among Mormons airs at 8:00 PM on Investigation Discovery. 

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