This religious sect, known as a polygamous Mormon fundamentalist group who, under the leadership of Ervil Morrell LeBaron, went on to kill the majority of their enemies. Using their religious doctrine, they justified each murder, leaving a bloody trail of misery wherever they went. Although LeBaron died in prison, the killings did not end. He left his children a hit list, and they continued to work through his list long after he died. Many people still remain in hiding in fear of being brutally murdered by The Church of the Lamb of God.
Ervil Morrell LeBaron
The Mormon faith used to preach and practice polygamy as a part of their doctrine. Despite this, polygamy was outlawed in the U.S in 1862 and the mainstream Mormons finally removed it from their practices around 1890. This decision did not sit well with many fundamental Mormons, and they soon fled the U.S into Mexico where they formed polygamous groups or colonies. It was here in Mexico that many families set up to begin their life of freedom, including the LeBaron family.
Alma LeBaron claimed to hear the voice of God of many occasions, claiming it was God who told him to take a second wife and move them all to Mexico. Throughout the family, mental illness ran rampant, infecting the majority of the children spawned by LeBaron. Their daughter Lucinda was prone to so many violent outbursts that her parents kept her chained by the ankle to a hut, in fear of the damage she was capable of. Lucinda’s brother Ben spent a lot of his life in and out of mental asylums, before finally committing suicide in 1978. Another son named Wesley began preaching that Jesus was coming back to Earth in a giant spaceship, whilst their nephew Owen declared that God had told him to have sexual intercourse with the family dog.
In 1924, Alma Dayer LeBaron moved both of his wives and their eight children across the border into Mexico, started a farm called “Colonia LeBaron” in Galeana, Chihuahua. A year later, Ervil Morrell LeBaron was born. The family lived and worked as farmers, and Ervil spent many of his childhood days working in the fields with his brothers. As the bothers grew older, they began to travel across Mexico, searching for new members for their branch of Mormonism.
Alma died in 1951, and he passed on his leadership to one of his sons, Joel. Ervil quickly became his right-hand man and new members began flocking to the group. Soon, they opened a primary school, alongside a nursery, communal farm and a kitchen, with Joel working amongst his followers. Ervil, on the other hand, concocted the work schedules and did very little physical labour. He claimed it was his role as their spiritual leader to not work like them, but to study the scripture and prey instead. Many members grew tiresome of Evril’s attitude, noticing his penchant for luxurious items and women.
Ervil LeBaron grew into a handsome, masculine young man, who stood tall at 6 foot 4. His thick, sandy coloured hair complemented his deep blue eyes, attracting women across the country and contributing to his growing confidence and ego. Staring relentlessly into people’s eyes, he would quote from the book of Mormon confidently, whilst convincing women and girls alike that God had told him to marry them. His wives would become a necessary nuisance to him, deemed necessary to birth his children, who would in turn become his footsoldiers.
Ervil began preaching his own messages in 1967, teaching members that is was he, not Joel, was the head of the ‘celestial authorities.’ This, combined with the attitude of Ervil had become too much for his brother Joel, and he denounced and discredited all teachings of his younger brother. In a bitter fury, Evril retaliated, claiming:
“I know as sure as the Lord lives that my program is the only one that will put over the kingdom. And I also know that there are men in leading positions in this work who oppose me… And I tell you that blood will have to run to settle our differences.” This would prove to be the end of the brothers’ leadership, as Joel released Ervil from his position within the church.
Ervil LeBaron quickly set up his own group, of which he preached a strong doctrine and subjected his followers to acts of sheer brutality.
In Ervil’s teachings, he began with the basic Mormon teachings that there are three grand orders of priesthood, but gave detailed support of his own ideas, which were new and unheard of in any other Mormon sect. He published a leaflet entitled: Priesthood Expounded, which delved into the details of how LeBaron’s supposedly legitimate priesthood authority. The first paragraph of the piece demonstrated how Ervil’s insights were superior to all other religious doctrines:
“If we LeBaron brothers are so fortunate as to be able to explain these things correctly, in this time of confusion and turmoil, when all others of our time have utterly failed to do it, then let every man and woman sit in silence and put their hands on their mouths, recognise where authority is, and cease to speak evil of the servants of God.” In 1962, Ervil introduced the doctrine of Civil Law, which declared that many of the principles of the church could be re-established with as much force as necessary, including deadly force. Whilst Joel agreed that this law could perhaps come in useful in the future, Ervil was wanting to put it into action immediately.
After Joel had Ervil removed from their religious group, Ervil went on to create his own religious sect in 1971, called The Church of the Lamb of God with a new and harsher set of doctrines. By the following year, he was preaching that he was “the one mighty and strong”, and with his domineering appearance, and charmingly confident mannerisms, people believed him. It was August of that year when Ervil began openly declaring that “Verlan and Joel will be put to death!” and it only took until the 20th August for Joel to be attacked by the group and shot in the head. The next brother in line to take over from Joel was Verlan, and he took control of the Church of the Firstborn of the Fullness of Times; becoming the next target for Evril and his followers.
Ervil was a key suspect in his brother’s death, and to the surprise of the authorities, on 13 December 1972, he handed himself in. He was found guilty on November 8th, but walked free after serving only one day of his sentence when the higher judges overturned the verdict.
After his release, Ervil’s teachings become even more focused on hatred, anger, and exposing betrayers “to hot lead and cold steel” and sending his opponents a “one way ticket Hell.” The practice of harsh punishments and violence continued throughout the years, with Ervil assuring his followers that cataclysmic events would happen by 3 May 1977, and his former church led by his brother would be obliterated. Despite up-scaling his plans for the murder of his brother, Verlan, they day came and went without and blood spilling.
Before Ervil LeBaron formed his group The Church of the Lamb of God, he was renowned as being an authoritarian figure in his family’s group, the Church of the Firstborn. His brother Joel lead the group after the death of their father, and was considered to be a good person, who treat his followers as his equals. Ervil was appointed as his right-hand man, and soon began to show that he was not like his brother.
Many followers claim that he abused his power, enjoying the fruits of his new found leadership such as lavish cars and other material items. His teachings became more and more outlandish and violent to the point that Joel threw him out of the group. Ervil started his own church, where he focused his hatred for his family and any other oppressors. His hatred soon turned into murder, as he ordered the death of Joel; who was shot in the head as a result. Ervil presumed the the death of Joel would force the followers of the Church of the Firstborn to turn to him for leadership, and was outraged when they selected his younger brother Verlan instead of him. As opposed to them relying on him for survival, many of the followers reported him to the authorities for the murder of their leader.
After spending months trying to evade capture, Ervil marched to a police station and demanded that the murder enquiry should be closed down. The authorities could not believe their luck that the man they had been searching for had walked into their building, and threw him in jail. He was finally sentenced to 12 years for the death of Joel LeBaron, but after serving only one day, his case was overturned and he walked free.
Now that he was back on the streets, Ervil focused his efforts on trying to capture and kill his other brother, who was now in charge of his former church. Verlan was much like Joel, in that he was a quiet, non violent man, and he did not want the attention and fear that his leadership brought him. Despite this, he led his people whilst being constantly on the move, hiding from him murderous brother for many years.
During his spare time, Ervil produced a fire-and-brimstone essay entitled Hour of Crisis – Day of Vengeance. The piece was written in a version similar to old English, and was barely readable, perhaps showing a sign of his mental deterioration. The essay was fundamentally a list of demands upon the Firstborn church, dictating that anyone who didn’t pay dues to him should die.
“It is a criminal offence, punishable by death, for an enlightened people to pay tithes and offerings to thieves and robbers (and other fundamentalist leaders.) The sword of vengeance (will) hang over the heads of all those who should fail to hear the word of the Lord. Wilful failure to comply with (the book’s) minimum requirements constitutes the crime of rebellion against God.”
- The Raid on Los Molinos
The First-Born church and Verlan remained silent, dismissing Ervil’s new essay as further insane rantings. Angered by this silence, Ervil claimed to his followers that he had another revelation: the home of the First-Born church, Los Molinos, must be destroyed. Under the cover of night on boxing day, Ervil sent his men into Baja loaded with weaponry to follow his orders. A fiat and a pick up truck drove up to the homes of over 30 families and threw a Molotov cocktail through the window of the largest house in the perimeter.
As the family raced outside of the burning building, Evril’s men tore them open with an array of bullets. The vehicles continued driving through the settlement, throwing fire bombs at will as they made their way to their ultimate target: The home of the leader, Evril’s brother, Verlan. Verlan was not there, but his wife and their six children were, and they quickly retreated into the darkness behind the house before it was set alight. This 20 minute assault killed two Firstborn church members, and a total of 13 injured others.
The next gruesome act led by Ervil LeBaron occurred when one of the wives of his associates in the group began to voice her concerns about the level of violence used. With her husband’s permission, LeBaron ordered one of his wives to kill the woman. Vonda drove her friend into a dark canyon and shot her. The body was then dumped by both Vonda and another of Ervil’s wives in a shallow grave amongst some bushes, and to this day has not been found by the authorities.
Besides the First-Born church members and people deemed to be traitors, Ervil was busy ordering the deaths of other people who stepped in his path. In 1975 he ordered the killing of Bob Simons, a fellow polygamist who Ervil had been attempting to extort money from. Simons had a history of mental illness, and deeply believed it was his mission to covert Native Americans to the Mormon religion. Ervil paid Simons several visits, acting as someone interested in his teachings and his church. One day, the pair began arguing over their opposing religious views, and this led to a physical fight quickly. Simons threw Ervil from the property, telling him never to return. In a blind fury, Ervil went back to his followers and told them that God wanted atonement for this false prophet. Within hours, Ervil’s men were armed with axes and shovels and drove up to the home of Simons, stopping on their way to dig a hole in the desert hills to bury him in.
Although Simons was aware they were coming, he was too caught up in meeting a group of Native Americans who were searching for their white prophet. He let his guard down, and whilst waiting to meet the group outside his home, Ervil’s men crept up behind him and shot him in the back of the head with a shotgun.
In 1977, Ervil ordered the assassination of Rulon C. Allred, who was the leader of another polygamist Mormon fundamentalist group called the Apostolic United Bretheren. This attack was carried out by another of Ervil’s wives, Rena Chynoweth. The murderous reign continued, with death orders covering several group members who attempted to leave The Church of the Lamb of God. Ervil was even suspected of being involved in the murder of his pregnant daughter, who disappeared in April 1977. Her body has never been found by the authorities.
In June 1979, Ervil LeBaron was finally caught by the authorities in Mexico and sent to the U.S where he was convicted of ordering the death of Rulon C. Allred. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and sent to the Utah State Prison where he began writing his 500 page book entitled: The Book of the New Covenants. It was to be his last piece of writing, and also his most infamous, as he listed more than 50 people who he deemed needed to be assassinated, including ex cult members and prison officials.
Ervil was found dead in his cell on 16 August 1981, and it was later determined that he has suffered a mass heart attack. In a twist of irony, his brother Verlan was killed on the same day in a car accident in Mexico, but many family members feel that this was no coincidence. Whilst many people now felt safe that Evril was dead, their hope was misguided. One by one, the people listed in the final writings of Evril began to disappear and it became apparent that the Church of the Lamb of God had not finished their path of destruction.
Further deaths implemented by the group:
- Issac LeBaron, son of Ervil. He testified against his father in court and died in a suspicious suicide in June 1983.
- Ervil’s wife, Lorna LeBaron was attempting to leave the group when she was strangled and buried in a shallow grave.
- Arturo LeBaron, Ervil’s eldest son was gunned down in December 1983.
- Gamaliel Rios was shot in the face with a .45 automatic by new leader Heber LeBaron, Ervil’s 20-year-old son. His body was dumped in the desert and has never been recovered.
- Ervil’s twelfth wife, Yolanda Rios was strangled to death in May 1984
The 4 O'Clock Murders
Ervil wrote about three men in particular that he wanted dead, labelling them as traitors. Mark Chynoweth, Duane Chynoweth and Ed Marston were all former cult members, and at 4pm on 27 June 1988 they were simultaneously murdered, alongside Chynoweth’s 8-year-old daughter Jennifer. All four bodies were found in a variant of locations, each of them riddled with bullets. Whilst Jennifer was not part of the plan, she was deemed as a potential witness and was shot directly in the mouth.
The authorities were on the case quickly, and one by one, the killers were dragged in for their part in the recent murders. Their names include:
Douglas Lee Barlow
Despite the majority of the killers being behind bars, many people on Evril’s ‘hit list’ still remain in hiding, in fear that they may be shot like so many before them.