COLUMBUS, Ohio – A cult leader convicted of killing a family of five in 1989 will be executed on Oct. 10, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.
Jeffrey Lundgren, 56, was convicted of shooting to death a man, his wife and three daughters who had moved from Missouri in 1987 to follow Lundgren's teachings. He referred to the killings as "pruning the vineyard."
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 had attracted a following, and several people moved with him to a rented farm house in suburban Cleveland, where they called him "Dad" and contributed money for group expenses.
On April 17, 1989, the Avery family was invited to dinner, then led to the barn where they were bound and placed into the pit, where Lundgren shot each one. The pit was covered with dirt.
A jury found him guilty of five counts of aggravated murder with each count containing two death penalty specifications and five counts of kidnapping.
Lundgren has exhausted all of his state and federal appeals, said Bob Beasley, spokesman for Attorney General Jim Petro.
In an unsworn statement at his 1990 trial, Lundgren told the jury that he and his cult were preparing for the second coming of Jesus Christ, which they believed would occur at the Reorganized Church's temple . He said messages in the Bible told him to kill the Averys because they were not invested enough in the cult, according to court testimony.
Lundgren's wife, Alice, 55, was sentenced to five terms of life in prison for conspiracy, complicity and kidnapping. The Lundgrens were among 13 cult members arrested in the case. Most lived at the Kirtland farm. Some pleaded guilty to reduced charges.