THE 4 O'CLOCK MURDERS: The True Story of a Mormon Family's Vengeance by Scott Anderson

THE 4 O'CLOCK MURDERS: The True Story of a Mormon Family's Vengeance

Email this review


Incredible but true tale of a renegade Mormon family and its bloody criminal empire. The murders--four killings at three different Texas locations on June 27, 1988--are but the latest in a demented tale that, according to free-lancer Anderson (The Nation, The Boston Globe, etc.), goes back three generations and more. The saga began in the early years of the Mormon Church, when Joseph Smith established plural marriage and Brigham Young followed up with ""blood atonement,"" the doctrine that apostates to the faith must be killed (both practices were soon dropped by the official Church). A century later, a Mormon named Dayer LeBaron received visions calling him to a new life as a prophet-polygamist in Mexico, where he and his brothers established a fundamentalist cult. For unknown reasons, the family began to disintegrate: Several members wound up in mental hospitals; many of the rest became killers. In time, the mantle of prophecy landed on Dayer's son, Ervil, who satisfied his lust for power and sex with a dozen wives and a killing spree that began by targeting his brother Joel. As Ervil's murderous ""cleansings"" multiplied, other brothers, daughters, and wives, as well as disaffected followers, became victims. When Ervil died in prison, he passed on a 50-name hit-list and the mantle of the ""One Mighty and Strong"" prophet to other LeBarons, who today carry on the bloody family ways. Anderson tells his gripping tale with overwhelming detail, dollops of melodrama (lots of biblical parallels, like Ervil-Joel/Cain-Abel), and an eye for the seamier aspects. He also seems uneasy with the traditional Mormon Church, and baits its current leadership (""as much as Mormon officials might wish otherwise..."") more than once, a crudity that--along with the emphasis on sex and violence--may turn away some readers. Wins weirdness awards for true crime and religion: a double-whammy for a story of considerable energy but little finesse.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1993
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Doubleday