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The Nation

Clemency Setback for Cult Leader

October 03, 2006|From the Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio Parole Board on Monday recommended that the governor deny clemency to a religious cult leader who said a combination of messages from the Bible instructed him to kill a family of five.

Jeffrey Lundgren is scheduled to die by injection Oct. 24 for the 1989 shooting deaths of Dennis Avery, 49; his wife, Cheryl, 46; and daughters Trina, 15, Rebecca, 13, and Karen, 7. The family had moved from Missouri in 1987 to follow Lundgren's teachings.

Lundgren, 56, said in a statement to the parole board that God commanded him to kill the Avery family as part of a "cleansing."

The board, however, found that Lundgren was motivated by financial gain, power and "exploitation and manipulation of the fears and beliefs of others."

Lundgren formed a religious cult after he was dismissed in 1987 as a lay minister of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He attracted a following and several people moved with him to a rented farmhouse about 30 miles east of Cleveland, where they called him "Dad" and contributed money for group expenses.

Gov. Bob Taft can follow the board's decision, commute a condemned inmate's sentence to life in prison with or without possibility of parole, offer a postponement or grant a pardon. He has commuted one sentence while governor.

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