Polygamous sect leader's daughter pleads guilty

AP News
Posted: Nov 15, 2011 5:20 PM
Polygamous sect leader's daughter pleads guilty

The daughter of a Utah polygamous sect leader involved in four 1988 Texas murders has pleaded guilty to a federal contempt charge, ending a decades-long family crime saga.

Jacqueline Tarsa LeBaron, 46, entered the plea last week in Salt Lake City's U.S. District Court, 19 years after she was first charged.

Magistrate Judge David Nuffer gave LeBaron _ also known as Melanie Martin _ credit for time she's already served during the Thursday hearing and added no time to the three-year federal sentence she's currently serving in a San Diego prison for her involvement in the Texas murders.

Federal prosecutors first filed a felony contempt charge against LeBaron in March 1992, more than a year after she walked away from court-ordered confinement at a Salt Lake City treatment facility where she was being held as a witness during a 1991 federal grand jury investigation. It was not immediately clear Tuesday whether the grand jury investigation was tied to the Texas murders.

Utah U.S. Attorney David Barlow wasn't available for comment.

After nearly two decades on the lam, LeBaron was finally captured by authorities in Honduras in May 2010.

Federal agents took her to Texas, where she and six other family members, most her siblings, had been indicted on multiple federal charges stemming from the June 1988 shooting deaths of Houston brothers Mark and Duane Chynoweth and Ed Marston, of Irving, Texas.

Duane Chynoweth's 8-year-old daughter Jenny also was killed in what investigators believe was an effort to eliminate her as a witness.

LeBaron and her siblings may have been following the directives of their late father, Utah polygamist Ervil LeBaron, who died in prison in 1981 while serving time for ordering the murder of a rival polygamous sect leader, Rulon Allred, in the late 1970s.

Authorities believe Ervil LeBaron may also have ordered dozens of other deaths, including that of his brother, Joel LeBaron, with whom he had a long-running dispute over control of their Church of the First Born. Ervil LeBaron split with the church in 1972, founding his own Church of the Lamb of God in San Diego, Calif.

Later, while in prison for Allred's 1977 murder, Ervil LeBaron wrote a 400-page "bible" known as The Book of the New Covenants, which included a commandment to kill disobedient church members who were included in a hit list.

Authorities said the Chynoweth and Marston deaths were ordered by Jacqueline LeBaron's brother, Aaron LeBaron, who took over the church upon his father's death.

In a Houston courtroom earlier this year, Jacqueline LeBaron said those killed were being punished for leaving the faith following a disagreement over how the church should be run.

Prosecutors said Jacqueline LeBaron aided her siblings in the murder by providing $500 in travel money to get from Mexico, where some family members have established a small community, to Houston.

In June, LeBaron pleaded guilty to the reduced charge of conspiracy to obstruct religious beliefs. A Texas judge in September ordered her to serve three years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release.

Three other LeBaron family members also have been 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.