Cult Leader Sentenced to Die in Family’s Slaying
A judge today sentenced religious cult leader Jeffrey Don Lundgren to death for killing a five-member family belonging to his cult.
Defense lawyer Charles Grieshammer pleaded Thursday for Common Pleas Judge Martin Parks to spare Lundgren’s life, saying the Independence, Mo., native believed he was following God’s will when he killed the Avery family, which included children ages 15, 13 and 6.
Lundgren, 40, a one-time lay minister in the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, was convicted Aug. 29 of aggravated murder for the 1989 killings.
Grieshammer said the Reorganized Church, which Lundgren broke away from to start his cult, is based on the belief that the second coming of Christ is near, and he said there is a belief there will be a prophet to lead the church.
“You ended up with a man who felt he was the final prophet,” Grieshammer said. “Jeffrey Lundgren and his followers went over the edge. Jeffrey Lundgren lost touch with reality. There is no doubt about it.”
Grieshammer said he was not trying to say Lundgren was innocent by reason of insanity.
“The penalty we are asking for is a horrible penalty,” Grieshammer said. “To send Jeffrey Lundgren to prison for the rest of his life, to reside in an 8-by-10-foot cell, that is a horrible punishment. It is the second most horrible punishment we have but it is what Jeffrey Lundgren deserves.”
Lake County Prosecutor Stephen LaTourette said Lundgren killed the Avery family because Dennis Avery, the father, was lazy and his children were unruly.
“Believing you are a prophet of God or even being a prophet of God is no excuse for murder,” LaTourette said.
The cult disbanded in December.
“The evidence has shown that Jeffrey Lundgren didn’t believe he was doing God’s will but rather he was doing his own will,” LaTourette said.
Also facing a possible death penalty is Jeffrey Lundgren’s 19-year-old son, Damon Lundgren.