5 Jun 2008

Ex-Polygamy Cult Member Shares Family's Violent Past

San Diego 10News - June 4, 2008

by Charisse Yu

Ervil LeBaron started the Church of Lamb of God in San Diego. He had 13 wives and more than 50 children. He allegedly ordered the killing of his brother Joel, his wife Noemi, his daughter Rebecca and many others.

The killings continued even after LeBaron's arrest in 1979.

Now, one of his daughters shares what it was like to be part of this violent family.

"When I thought of my dad... I thought of him as being God," Norma LeBaron said. "We went extreme in almost every way. I got married off when I was 13, twice."

In describing her father's beliefs, she said, "He believed in having revelations and that one person -- one man -- was God's representative on Earth, and God would speak through that one person."

She is one of 52 children of Ervil Lebaron. LeBaron's followers were spread out across Utah, Texas, California and even Mexico. The children shared the same father; the wives shared the same husband.

"We were God's chosen," Norma said. "And everybody else, the world was what who we feared."

Norma said that anyone who strayed or wanted to get out of the group would be killed, or what they called, "blood atoned."

"I had my aunt and my younger sister who were blood atoned and it was traumatizing," she said.

"Anybody that threatened to go to the police or young mothers who wanted to leave with their children, those are reasons and grounds to kill them."

One of those murders happened in National City. Ervil ordered his 10th wife, Vonda White, who was pregnant at the time, to kill Dean Vest.

Retired prosecutor Gary Rempel said Vest, a former member of the group, was about to contact authorities.

"He was getting ready to leave," Rempel said. "She served him some chicken and told him to wash his hands at the sink and while he was washing his hands at the sink she came up behind him, having put on rubber gloves, and shot him twice in the back."

But Norma said many of the assassins are victims. Ervil LeBaron's followers were taught that blood atonement was a way of sending the person back to heaven.

"That meant we didn't want to do God's will and so that was part of my challenge growing up. There was so many things that weren't right inside of me and they were so hard to deal with. I knew I was going to Hell because I knew in my heart I didn't want somebody to get killed," Norma said.

The bloodshed didn't end with Ervil LeBaron's teachings. Family rivalry over leadership also turned to violence. Norma was caught in the gunfire in Mexico when she was 11 years old.

"It just went and I pulled it out," she said. "I doctored myself."

Ervil LeBaron was eventually arrested and convicted of ordering the death of a rival polygamist. But inside his prison cell, LeBaron wrote a book that became the bible for his followers. It also contained a hit list.

"These people made Manson look like amateurs," Rempel said. "They had 22 successful unpunished hits."

When Norma LeBaron was asked if the hit list still exists, she said, "There's nobody that believes that it exists. There's no threat for anybody anymore."

In the wake of the raid on a polygamist compound in Texas, Norma says she has deep sympathy for the children.

"Where do we stop this perpetual raising people in this certain beliefs? So, it's really hard. A part of me wants somebody to go and give them things and help them in a very loving way how were helped we would probably still in Mexico waiting for God to come back," she said.

She said the wives and the children of her polygamist cult are victims. Many of them were born into the lifestyle.

"I had this yearning to go out to school, to sometimes talk about ... and that very yearning was something of the Devil and we would always try to smash it," she said.

She said leaving never crossed her mind. And if she didn't have the help of police, she probably would still be in Mexico.

"To just conjure up the notion of wanting to leave was so bizarre and something you just don't do," she said. "To me it's kind of like, in this day and age, saying, 'oh, you know what, I'm gonna just go to the moon now."

It took many years for Norma to come to terms with her past, but now she wants to live in the present and can only hope the cycle of polygamy won't continue.

Norma said the LeBaron polygamy group no longer exists. According to the FBI, by 1995 four members of the LeBaron group were found guilty for murders and sentenced to prison. One of Norma's sisters is, however, on the FBI's most wanted list for her alleged involvement in a series of crimes including conspiracy to commit murder.

This article was found at:


No comments:

Post a Comment