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Cult Member Was Set to Work as a Receptionist Before Arrest

January 13, 1990|H.G. REZA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Alice Lundgren, wife of cult leader Jeffrey Lundgren, was scheduled to begin working in a San Diego doctor's office the day after she, her husband and teen-age son were arrested and charged in the ritualistic killings of an Ohio family, a federal agent said Friday.

Agent Jim Stathes, from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, said a doctor called his office Monday to say that he had hired Lundgren as a receptionist. She was supposed to report to work on the morning that newspaper headlines nationwide reported the capture. Stathes declined to identify the doctor.

Jeffrey D. Lundgren, 39, Alice Lundgren, 38, and their oldest son, Damon, 19, were arrested Sunday at a National City motel room. The family is charged with participating in the murders of a family of five in Kirtland, Ohio, near Cleveland. Investigators believe that the victims were killed execution style in a religious sacrifice.

On Friday, Alice Lundgren's attorney told reporters that her client was going to waive extradition Tuesday and return to Ohio, and that she was cooperating with the investigation.

Thirteen cult members were indicted in the killings. On Wednesday, Kathryn R. Johnson and Daniel D. Kraft Jr., the last two suspects sought by authorities, were captured in North San Diego County, near the Cleveland National Forest.

Johnson and Kraft refused to waive extradition at a Friday court hearing. The two male Lundgrens also are fighting extradition.

An investigator familiar with the case said that Alice Lundgren told agents after the arrest of a weapons cache that her husband had in a storage locker. One federal source said that her decision to cooperate may have been influenced by an extramarital relationship that Jeffrey Lundgren was allegedly having with Johnson, who is from Holden, Mo.

One cult member told investigators that Jeffrey Lundgren, who called himself a prophet and founded a renegade cult, killed at least one of the victims. They were shot with a .45-caliber revolver. The murders were committed in April in a barn on a 15-acre farm owned by the cult. An informant in Kansas City, Mo., told ATF agents of the killings on New Year's Eve.

Federal investigators said survival training and guns were part of the cult's religious teachings. The killings were part of a plan for spiritual cleansing, which would prepare the cult for its trek into the wilderness, investigators said.

Andy Vita, special agent in charge of the ATF Los Angeles office, said that Lundgren and his wife were waiting for his mother-in-law to come to San Diego from Missouri to take custody of the couple's three minor children before hiding out in the wilderness with Johnson and Kraft. The woman took custody of the children after the arrests.

Meanwhile, investigators said Friday that Johnson left her husband and four sons to follow Lundgren to California.

Lt. Rick Ring of the Johnson County, Mo., sheriff's office, said that Johnson and her husband, Larry Keith, were members of Lundgren's cult. Lundgren is a defrocked minister of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which is not affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormons. Ring said the husband, who is known as Keith Johnson, left Lundgren's cult in December.

The cult, which numbered about 18, was living in a barn in Chilhowee, Mo., Ring said.

"Kathryn and Keith were living there at one time with their four children. Keith split from the Lundgren group in December, but Kathryn left him and the children to go to California with Lundgren," Ring said.

Keith Johnson could not be reached for comment, and his father, Ike, who owns an insurance agency in Holden, declined to comment. A secretary in Ike Johnson's office said the family had not seen Keith since December.

Kraft, 25, of Nauvoo, Ill., was employed as a picture framer in San Diego County before his arrest, Stathes said. Although he declined to identify Kraft's employer, Stathes said the store owner called him "an excellent worker."

ATF agents said that Kraft and Johnson rode a bus together to San Diego to be with Jeffrey Lundgren.

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