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Survivors of polygamist cult reveal inner sanctum of murder, sweatshops, car theft rings

Survivors who endured decades of abuse and violence detailed their experience in a fundamentalist Mormon cult, headed by a polygamist nicknamed “The Mormon Manson,” that is credited with dozens of assassinations

The Church of the First Born Lamb of God, headed in Chihuahua, Mexico and lead by self-styled prophet Ervil LeBaron, is dissected in full bloody detail in the new Hulu documentary series “Daughters of the Cult,” which first hit the platform on Jan. 4. 

“It blows my mind. I sit and think, ‘This is impossible,'” Celia LeBaron, one of the cult leader’s daughters, said in the new documentary. “If I hadn’t lived through it, I don’t know if I could believe it. Our family was killing people because of our father.”

Another of LeBaron’s children interviewed in the series, Hyrum, told producers that he was unsure exactly how many siblings he had from his father’s side – collectively, they estimated approximately 50. 

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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, widely known as the Mormon church and headquartered in Utah, abandoned polygamy in 1890.

In response, Alma Dayer LeBaron moved south of the border with his wives and children in 1924, NBC News reported. Ervil and his older brother broke free from their father’s community, attempting to join the Latter-day Saints. 

But after they were excommunicated for practicing polygamy, the family started the Church of the First Born in response. 

LeBaron, who would have 13 wives and at least 50 children, broke off to start his own church in the ’60s. Soon, he began targeting rival cult leaders, convincing his flock to do his bidding in exchange for admittance into heaven. 

“We were taught to live in awe of him as God’s prophet, as the one true prophet on Earth,” Anna LeBaron, Ervil’s daughter, told BBC.

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Blood atonement – an old Mormon doctrine that allowed sinners to be killed to cleanse them of evil – was used as reasoning for the killings, BBC reported. Leaders of the church refer to the practice as a “theoretical principle” that they do not implement in practice, according to the Deseret News. 

LeBaron murdered his own brother for control of the group in 1972, according to the documentary – before he was sentenced to life in prison in 1980 in the death of rival sect leader Rulon Allred, he urged his followers to carry out numerous killings on his behalf. 

Although LeBaron was arrested in Mexico for his brother’s killing two years later, his conviction was overturned as the result of a technicality – or, according to some interviewed in the five-part docuseries, a bribe. 

His followers raided Los Molinos, an offshoot sect started by LeBaron’s younger brother, to kill the opposing cult leader – although they destroyed the town and killed two men, Verlan LeBaron was unscathed. 

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The cult would kill at least 25 people in Mexico, the Los Angeles Times reported. 

Allred, a homeopath and chiropractor in Salt Lake City who had 48 wives, headed the Apostolic United Bretheren sect – on May 10, 1977, two women in disguises and red wigs broke into his practice and shot him dead on LeBaron’s orders, per reporting by Oxygen.com. 

Police investigating the murder began to suspect that Allred’s religion was the motivation for his killing after pamphlets from the Church of the First Born Lamb of God telling readers to “repent or be destroyed” were distributed among Allred’s followers, Oxygen reported. 

Two red wigs and a box containing a gun were found near the scene – investigators were able to trace that gun back to his youngest wife, Rena Chynoweth. 

When LeBaron was arrested, his web of criminal activity – that spanned from the murders to sweatshops and car theft rings – began to unravel. 

But even after his death at 56 years old of an apparent suicide 1981, his followers continued to kill in his name. 

Based on a screed written by the late LeBaron during his incarceration, his followers compiled a hit list of about 50 people, Oxygen reported.

Several members of the cult were arrested in the ‘80s and ’90s, according to VICE, and one was arrested in 2011 in connection to four Texas killings. 

Nine members of LeBaron’s family in a convoy en route to a wedding were shot dead in 2019 by Mexican hitmen, VICE reported. The family had allegedly been speaking out against drug traffickers and advocating for looser gun controls to protect themselves against them. 

 

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