Wednesday, November 08, 2006

October 24, 2006

*-Ed. Note: updated information added on 11/10.

..."I am a prophet of God. I am even more than a prophet."...

Last Meal: Lundgren has a final special meal of turkey, potatoes and gravy, a salad and pumpkin pie.

The skinny: Lundgren, a self-professed prophet, was executed for killing five people in what he said was a sacrifice demanded by a higher power.

More skinny: Lundgren and about two dozen followers had broken away from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and formed the Community of Christ, a small church that splintered from the mainstream Mormon church. His group believed doomsday was near. Lundgren killed a family both because of a message he felt he got from God and because he saw the family as disloyal for not pooling their finances into a common church fund. After inviting the husband and wife and their three daughters over for dinner, each was led individually out to the barn, where each was bound and gagged by a group of men. After they had placed each family member into the pit, Lundgren shot each person two or three times with a .45 caliber semiautomatic weapon. The men then filled the pit with dirt and stones. A chain saw was used to muffle the gunfire while remaining family members cleaned up after dinner. Afterwards, Lundgren and the others went back to the farmhouse and held a prayer meeting.

Before the slayings, Lundgren ensured that no one would look for the the famuly by directing the mother to write to relatives and inform them that the family was moving to Wyoming and would provide contact information when they got settled. The case was cracked eight months later when a dissident cult member, upset that his wife had been selected to become Lundgren's second wife, tipped off authorities. Thirteen cult members were charged in the case, including Lundgren's ex-wife, Alice, now 55, and their son, Damon, now 35, both serving life prison terms.

Trial: Lundgren told a jury in 1990 that he was a prophet of God and therefore not worthy of the death penalty. "It's not a figment of my imagination that I can in fact talk to God, that I can hear his voice," he told the jurors. "I am a prophet of God. I am even more than a prophet." He told the jury the spiritually unclean had to be dealt with and referred to the killings as "pruning the vineyard."

Leading up to: Prison officials said Lundgren had been so certain that he would win a delay that he napped much of the morning.

Last words and such: Lundgren walked the 17 steps to the death chamber without the well-worn Bible that he used to control his cult. As a dozen people watched from the other side of a glass wall, Lundgren issued a 15-second statement, "For my last words I'd like to profess my love for God, my family, my children and my beloved wife. ... I am because you are."

The once haughty prophet who surrounded himself with loyal followers died with no family members or friends among the witnesses. With no one claiming his body, Lundgren will be buried in a simple ceremony in a prison grave. Other convicts will serve as pallbearers.

Factoids: Lundgren was the...

46th murderer executed in U.S. in 2006
1050th murderer executed in U.S. since 1976
5th murderer executed in Ohio in 2006
24th murderer executed in Ohio since 1976

*-Clarification from a reader...
You, or perhaps the source you used, have a few things
wrong about Lundgren's religious affiliation. The
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) are
the Mormons, Lundgren and his followers were
originally members of the Reorganized Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS) who split from the
larger Mormon church in 1860. In 2001 the RLDS
changed their name to Community of Christ. I don't
believe the Lundgren group used any special name for
themselves when they left the RLDS. (Because the
church, always a lot more liberal than the Mormons,
was adopting even more progressive policies, such as
the ordination of women.)

I don't blame you for being confused by the names.
They're very similar, and they're quite a mouth full.
I suspect the leadership of the former RLDS may have
had that partially in mind when they changed their
name to Community of Christ.