Cleveland August 12, 2019
Clevelanders Will Never Forget This Shocking Tragedy That Happened Over A Quarter-Century Ago
Way back in 1990, a grisly discovery shook the nation. There were murders, the media reported, in a barn in rural Ohio. This quaint community had been peaceful, residents reported. It was an enchanting place to live. What was it that changed? The short answer: a cult took advantage of the area’s history and left their mark on the community forever. Do you remember this grisly event? Now known colloquially as the Kirtland cult killings, this event is etched into memories everywhere.
In 1984, a Missouri man moved to Kirtland to work at the reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints' Kirtland Temple.
Jeffrey Lundgren was not like most men – he insisted he was a prophet. He spread his teachings and gained a small band of followers, a group that included Dennis and Cheryl Avery, as well as their children; Karen, Rebecca, and Trina. He grew up as a member of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, through which he was purportedly abused. Despite his own father’s abuse, Lundgren grew close to the man and frequently hunted with him.
Before arriving in Ohio, Jeffrey Lundgren's life was full of... well, drama.
In 1970, Lundgren married a woman named Alice Keeler. He joined the U.S. Navy shortly thereafter, welcoming two children into the world almost in conjunction with his service. Following his honorable discharge, he and Alice moved to California and faced monetary challenges. After another child and a move back to Missouri, Lundgren found himself growing frustrated... and, tragically, taking it out on his wife. Just before moving to Ohio, he had another child.
In 1987, Lungren's position as a lay minister was revoked by the church.
Suspicious of theft, the church decided to part ways with Jeffrey Lundgren. He had been living in a church-owned home, so he left and moved to a property out on U.S. Route 6. Having found a platform through the church to share his thoughts and ideas, this self-proclaimed prophet attracted many followers. Some of these followers moved into his new home on U.S. Route 6 with him.
As charming as Kirtland may be, Lundgren's followers were not drawn by the beautiful landscape, but by Lundgren himself.
Growing into an accomplished cult leader, Lundgren convinced his followers that he could read minds by eavesdropping on their private conversations. He aimed to control the thoughts and freedoms of his followers, and he did so by strictly forbidding gossip.
In 1988, a neighbor made the Kirtland Police aware that there may be a cult living on Route 6.
At the time, Lundgren had been planning a takeover of the Kirtland Temple. Upon being contacted by the police, he called off the invasion (as instructed by a "higher power"). Despite this, the police investigated – and so, too, did the FBI.
As time moved on, Lundgren was fully excommunicated from his former church, and he shaped his following into a new sect.
Lundgren convinced his followers that he was the last prophet. The group believed him, and some turned over their life's savings to him. Eventually, he'd convinced the majority of his followers to move in with him. Who resisted this change, you ask? Nobody, except the aforementioned Avery family.
Jeffrey Lundgren eventually lost trust in the Avery family, and he decided to make an example of them.
After his plan to seize and claim the Kirtland Temple failed, he convinced his followers that they had to kill the Avery family instead. This, he explained, was punishment for the Averys' disloyalty to him. His followers, basking in his lies, agreed.
In the barn of the home on U.S. Route 6, the Avery family lost their lives in a horrifying way.
Their brutal slayings were drowned out by the sound of a running chainsaw. The victims were buried in the floor of their barn in 1989. That barn has since been demolished.
Nine months later, police uncovered the bodies. The rest is history.
Lundgren went on the lam, and his former followers actually helped organize his capture and arrest. He was sentenced to death and executed on October 24, 2006.
A church, appropriately named New Promise Church, now stands on the site of these brutal slayings, allowing their darkness to fade out of local memory.
The sudden uprising of a cult in Kirtland shook Northeast Ohio to the core. It's a reminder that such a thing can occur absolutely anywhere... something we must learn about to ensure history never repeats itself.
Remember this tragic even? It wasn’t as long ago as many might thik. Perhaps this video from
News 5 Cleveland will spark your memory:
Can you believe such an event occurred right here in Ohio? Had you previously heard of this event?
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