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NCJ Number: 136679 Find in a Library
Title: Death Penalty Mitigation and Cult Membership: The Case of the Kirtland Killings
Journal: Behavioral Sciences and the Law  Volume:10  Issue:1  Dated:(Winter 1992)  Pages:65-74
Author(s): S B McPherson
Date Published: 1992
Page Count: 10
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article reviews mitigating factors that pertain to cults in the capital case of the cultic killing of a family in Kirtland, Ohio in 1989.
Abstract: The cult involved included approximately 20 people who practiced paramilitary exercises and collected weapons. By 1989 the beliefs of the cult leader, Jeffrey Lundgren, included the concept of sacrifice. Within the primary circle of believers, Lundgren identified the Avery family, fringe members of the cult, as weak and of insufficient spirituality. They were listed as future sacrifices, but they had no knowledge of their status. The Averys were invited to Lundgren's farm, fed a last supper, and then enticed one by one into the barn where first the parents and then the children were shot by Lundgren. Lundgren's son was appointed lookout, but became physically ill. Back at the farmhouse, the women pretended not to know what was happening and facilitated the "delivery" of victims. At trial the prosecution obtained the death penalty for Lundgren. Following mitigation testimony, Lundgren's son and wife were spared the death penalty but were given consecutive life sentences with no hope of parole for over 100 years. The men in the barn who assisted in the killings and the burials were also given harsh prison sentences. The women who remained in the house were given 7 to 25 years. Apparently, all but the cult leader escaped the death penalty through the mitigating factors associated with the coerciveness and mind control that characterized the cult under Lundgren's leadership. 30 references
Main Term(s): Cults
Index Term(s): Capital punishment; Murder; Sentencing factors
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