Suspect in 1988 Texas slayings of ex-polygamist sect members pleads not guilty to murder
HOUSTON – HOUSTON (AP) — A polygamist sect leader's daughter who was a fugitive for nearly 20 years pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges alleging that she helped orchestrate the shotgun killings of three former sect members and an 8-year-old girl.
Jacqueline Tarsa LeBaron entered her plea during a brief arraignment hearing. U.S. Magistrate Judge Nancy Johnson ordered her to be held without bond pending her trial after LeBaron waived her right to a detention hearing.
LeBaron's trial was scheduled for June 28 but will likely be delayed. Her attorney, David Adler, said it would be unusual for anybody to be prepared that quickly for trial, especially given how much time has passed since she was first charged.
"These are very serious allegations. We're interested in what the evidence is against her," Adler said after the hearing.
Prosecutor Terry Clark declined to comment on the case.
LeBaron, 44, was captured in Honduras last week and extradited to the U.S. after the FBI received a tip about her whereabouts.
She is accused of helping orchestrate the 1988 shooting deaths of three former sect members and the 8-year-old daughter of one of them in Houston and suburban Dallas.
LeBaron is the daughter of Utah polygamist Ervil LeBaron, who died in 1981 in Utah state prison, where he was serving a life sentence for masterminding the 1977 murder of Rulon Allred, the leader of another polygamist group.
Ervil LeBaron was the leader of the Church of the Lamb of God, based on distorted early Mormon teachings and disavowed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormon church.
Jacqueline LeBaron was among six family members charged with the June 1988 slayings of three men who chose to leave the sect and the daughter of one victim. Each was shot in the head with a shotgun.
Ed Marston, brothers Mark and Duane Chynoweth and Duane Chynoweth's daughter, Jenny, were fatally shot minutes apart at two sites in Houston and one in the Dallas suburb of Irving. Authorities said the girl was killed because she witnessed her father's death.
Prosecutors said LeBaron and her half-brother directed the killings after receiving what they described as a "sign from God."
Three LeBaron family members were convicted on charges including civil rights violations and witness tampering in 1993 and sentenced to life in prison. Another was convicted four years later of ordering the deaths and was sentenced to 45 years in prison. The youngest, who was 16 at the time of the killings, pleaded guilty in the child's death and served five years in prison.
Jacqueline LeBaron has been charged with 14 counts, including conspiracy to commit murder; murder; obstruction of religious beliefs; and racketeering conspiracy.
Authorities say Ervil LeBaron taught a doctrine of blood atonement, in which defectors of his sect were assassinated.