Update: PAROLE GRANTED. Despite
our protests Greg Winship, Susan Luff, Sharon Bluntschly and Deborah
released on parole. Thank you to everyone who helped in the
effort to block these paroles.
Four Who Helped Murder Avery Family Released
The Avery Family
was brutally murdered by a demented cult. Five of their killers
are now free .
The Avery Family (L to R: Dennis,
Becky, Trina, Karen and Cheryl)
· Dennis and Cheryl Avery were a
quiet, hard working couple. The two lived in Independence Missouri
and were dedicated parents to their three daughters, Trina, 15;
Becky, 13; and Karen, 7. They also were also very dedicated to
their church and to God.
· By September 1986 The Avery’s
fell under the spell of Jeffrey Lundgren. Lundgren was a master
manipulator with radical religious beliefs. In 1986 Lundgren broke
away from the Mormon Church to promote his own radical, demented
teachings. Soon after he convinced his small group of followers
to move to Kirtland Ohio. That group included the Avery family.
The group also included Lundgren’s wife Alice and son Damon,
Richard Brand, Greg Winship, Danny Kraft, Ron Luff, Susan Luff
(wife of Lundgren’s right-hand man Ronald Luff), Deborah
Olivarez and Sharon J. Bluntschly.
· It was well know that Lundgren
did not like the Averys. He openly stated Dennis Avery was weak
and complained that Cheryl made all the household decisions. He
also believed that Cheryl Avery was controlling and that her children
were unruly. The Avery’s did have one thing Lundgren desired.
Money. Soon after they moved to Kirtland, Alice Lundgren confronted
her husband Jeff and asked him why he had allowed the Averys to
move to Kirtland. He responded, "So I can get their money."
· As Lundgren and his cult became
more radical Dennis Avery began to question Lundgren’s teachings.
This was the beginning of the end for the Avery family. A short
time later Lundgren told his followers that God said the Averys
needed to be killed.
Cold Blooded Murders
· On April 10, 1989 Lundgren put
his plan into motion. He ordered two of the cult members to begin
digging a six-feet by seven-feet by four-feet pit to conceal the
Avery's bodies. The group also made plans to flee Lundgren’s
farmhouse after the murders. The women began packing their belongings.
· On April 17, 1989 Lundgren and
the group moved all of the Avery’s possessions to Lundgren’s
farmhouse. Lundgren then rented the Avery’s a room at a nearby
hotel. Lundgren told the Avery’s they were going on a wilderness
excursion to see God. Lundgren had Cheryl Avery write one last
letter to her mother claiming Dennis had gotten a job in Wyoming
and they needed to move quickly.
· That night after dinner Lundgren
and all the men (less Dennis Avery) went into a bedroom. This group
included Greg Winship and Richard Brand. Lundgren pulled a gun
from the holster on his hip and asked the men if they were with
him. Every one of them gave their support to Lundgren. They then
all went to the barn.
· It was decided Ron Luff would
bring the Avery’s in one by one from the house to the barn.
Then Richard Brand and Danny Kraft would bind them with duct tape
and they would be placed in the pit. Then Lundgren would execute
them. Winship would run a chain saw to conceal the gunshots. Winship
came up with the idea to rev the chain saw intermittently to imitate
actual sawing. Jeff Lundgren’s son Damon was assigned to
be the lookout. Bluntschly, Olivarez, and Susan Luff would distract
the other Avery family members while the executions were being
carried out. Alice Lundgren would not be present.
· After dinner Ron Luff came to
get Mr. Avery. Luff had a 50,000-volt stun gun in his pocket. Luff
told Mr. Avery that he wanted him to show him what the family wanted
to take into the wilderness. When Mr. Avery walked through the
door of the barn Luff zapped him with the stun gun. Mr. Avery screamed
out in pain, “"NO! No, this isn't necessary! Please!
This isn't necessary! Goddammit, goddammit, goddammit!” Winship,
Brand, Kraft and Damon Lundgren then knocked Mr. Avery to the ground.
They bound Mr. Avery’s hands, feet and mouth with duct tape.
Brand then lifted Mr. Avery’s shoulders and Kraft lifted
his feet. They carried him across the barn and slid him into the
pit. Dennis got to his knees and looked at Jeff Lundgren who was
standing at the edge of the pit. Winship started the chainsaw.
Jeff Lundgren then fired two shots into Mr. Avery’s
body. After Mr. Avery was shot Jeff Lundgren had each of the men
come and look at Mr. Avery’s body. The only one that showed
remorse was Damon Lundgren. He began crying hysterically. Because
of his reaction he would not participate in any of the four other
murders. He would act as the lookout only.
· Mrs. Avery was next. Luff told
Mrs. Avery that Mr. Avery needed help in the barn. As they approached
the barn Damon Lundgren announced to the others that they were
on their way. When Mrs. Avery stepped into the barn she was surrounded
by Winship, Brand and Kraft. Mrs. Avery was scared and confused
and remained still while the men bound her hands, ankles, mouth
and eyes. Brand said Kraft was not strong enough so he asked that
Luff help him carry the bodies to the pit. Brand and Luff lifted
Mrs. Avery and carried her across the barn. They put her in the
pit with her dead husband. Winship started the chain saw. Jeff
Lundgren fired three shots and Mrs. Avery’s body slammed
into the side of the pit when the bullets hit her. Two bullets
hit Mrs. Avery in the right breast and one bullet hit her in the
· While Mrs. Avery was being shot
there was no doubt the women in the house knew exactly what was
happening. Susan Luff asked Deborah Olivarez, “Do you think
it’s happening?” Olivarez responded, “I hear
the chain saw, I think so.”
· 15-year old Trina Avery was the
next to be brought to the barn. Damon Lundgren announced they were
on their way. When Trina entered the barn the men surrounded her
like they had surrounded her mother. They taped Trina’s feet
and hands and wrapped duct tape around her head. Luff and Brand
then carried Trina to the pit and put her next to her dead parents.
Winship started the chain saw. Jeff Lundgren decided he wanted
to shoot Trina in the head. Although Trina’s mouth was taped
she was able to shriek “Ouch!” when the bullet hit
her. Thinking he missed Trina’s
head or possibly grazed it Lundgren then fired three more shots.
One bullet hit Trina in the head and two bullets went into Trina’s
· Ronald Luff went back to the house
where 13-year-old Becky and seven-year-old Karen were playing video
games. Ron Luff asked them, “Who wants to see the horses
in the barn!” Both girls ran toward the back door at which
point Luff said he could only take one girl at a time. Little Karen
then went back to the video game. When Luff said he would be right
back little Karen said “Oway.”
· Once Becky was gone seven-year-old
Karen realized her whole family had left. She then asked, “Where’s
my mama?” Susan Luff responded, “It’s okay, she’ll
be right back.” Karen then went back to playing her video
· Damon Lundgren once again announced
they were on their way. When 13-year-old Becky went into the barn
and saw the duct tape she immediately asked, “What’s
going on?” Brand later said, “We told her that we were
just playing a game and that she was going for a ride.” The
men bound Becky with duct tape and placed here into the pit. Winship
started the chainsaw. Jeff Lundgren shot Becky however he did not
kill her. The bullet hit her in the thigh. “Her body fell
towards her mother’s corpse. She was still breathing," Lundgren
later stated, “ I fired again, and when this shot
hit her, her hands, which had been in her lap, went forward as
if she was
reaching to touch her mother’s body-as if she instinctively
knew that her mother was there beside her.” The second shot
had hit Becky in the back. After the shooting Winship recalled
standing next to the pit. He later stated that Becky was unconscious
however she was still breathing and making rasping, gurgling sounds.
· Now there was only one Avery left.
Seven-year-old Karen. While Jeff Lundgren reloaded his gun Ron
Luff went to the house to get Karen. The minute Luff arrived Karen
was anxiously awaiting her chance to see the horses. Luff gave
Karen a piggyback ride to the farmhouse. When he brought Karen
into the barn the men wrapped her in duct tape as they had done
the rest of her family. She was noticeably frightened when they
wrapped the tape around her mouth and eyes. Since Karen weighed
only 36 pounds Luff placed her in the pit himself. Winship fired
up the chain saw. Little Karen was sitting in the mud, eyes taped
shut, when Jeff Lundgren stood over her. Lundgren stated, “ I
fired straight down into her skull. I was less than two feet away
and I pulled the trigger, bang bang.” One shot went into
Karen’s head and the other into her chest.
· Jeffrey Lundgren and his demented
group of followers had now wiped out an entire family.
· The Cuyahoga County Coroners office
later stated all the victims, other than those shot in the head,
likely lived several minutes. Had they not been taped they could
have moved and been able to speak. The lime the cult spread over
the bodies to expedite the decomposition likely had an adverse
effect and kept the victims alive even longer. It is very likely
that Dennis Avery, Cheryl Avery and 13-year-old Becky Avery were
Death, Life, Pleas, and Paroles
· After the Avery murders all the
members of Jeffrey Lundgren’s demented group fled Kirtland.
They would all be brought back to answer for the murders of the
Avery family. While they all were held accountable their sentences
were vastly different.
· Cult leader Jeffrey Lundgren: Convicted
by jury of five counts of aggravated murder with specifications
and five counts of kidnapping. Jeffrey Lundgren was sentenced to
death. He was executed on October 24, 2006.
· Alice Lundgren (wife of
Jeffrey Lundgren): Although
Alice Lundgren was complicit in the Avery murders she was not
present at the house or the barn when the Avery murders occurred.
Since Alice Lundgren was not present when the murders occurred
prosecutor Steve LaTourette wanted to give her a plea deal.
The deal would have given Lundgren a 15-50 year sentence with
parole eligibility after five years. Judge Paul H Mitrovich refused
to allow Alice to plea to lesser charges. She went to trial and
was convicted of Aggravated Murder (5 counts) and Kidnapping
(5 counts). She was sentenced to 150 years to life. She will
be eligible for parole in October 2092.
· Damon Lundgren (son of
Jeffrey and Alice Lundgren): Damon Lundgren was convicted
of Aggravated Murder (4 counts) and Kidnapping (4 counts) and
to 120 years to Life. He was acquitted in the murder of Cheryl
Avery because the jury believed he was so hysterical and crying
so much after Dennis Avery was murdered he could not have composed
himself in time for Cheryl Avery’s murder. They believed
he was composed by the time the three children were killed. Damon
received a sentence of 120 years to life and will be eligible
for parole in February 2098.
· Ron Luff: Ronald
Luff was convicted by jury of Aggravated Murder (5 counts) and
Kidnapping (5 counts) and was sentenced to 170 years to Life. He
will be eligible
for parole in October 2048.
· Daniel Kraft: Daniel
Kraft pled guilty to Aggravated Murder (5 counts) and Kidnapping
and was sentenced to 120 years to Life. He will be eligible for
parole in October of 2024.
· Richard Brand: Richard
Brand became the state’s star witness. In exchange for his
testimony he escaped the death penalty and obtained a sweet plea
guilty to Murder (5 counts) and was sentenced to 15 years to Life
for each of the Avery murders. The sentences were to run concurrently
(all at the same time). Brand somehow managed to get paroled on
March 29, 2010. He has left the state of Ohio and his whereabouts
are unknown. He served approximately four years for each of the
· Greg Winship: Greg
Winship pled guilty a month and a half after Richard Brand. Since
he held out
to plea his deal was less advantageous the Brand’s plea.
Winship pled guilty to Murder (5 counts) and was sentenced to 15
years to Life for each of the five Avery murders. His sentences
were to run consecutively. This meant they were to run back-to-back
one right after the other for a minimum of 75 years. Unbelievable
Winship has been paroled. He was released on December
·Sharon Bluntschly, Deborah
Olivarez, and Susan Luff: Bluntschly and Olivarez agreed
to work with the prosecution and accepted plea agreements. They
both pled guilty to Conspiracy to Aggravated Murder (Five counts)
and each was sentenced to 7-25 years in prison. Luff originally
refused a plea and did not help the prosecution. Later when she
realized the other two women were going to testify against her
she accepted the same plea as Bluntschly and Olivarez. They
all walked free during the last week of December
The sentencing and subsequent paroles of
several of those involved in the murders of the Avery family represents
a complete breakdown of the justice system. While they did not
actually commit the murders there is no doubt Richard Brand and
Greg Winship were active participants in all five murders and played
an integral role in the murder plot. Keep in mind that Damon Lundgren,
the only one of those involved who showed remorse and who acted
solely as a lookout for four of the murders, is not eligible for
parole until 2098. Danny Kraft, who also accepted a plea and was
certainly just as involved as Winship and Brand, is not eligible
for parole until 2024. We fully understand considering Brand and
Winship for parole based on their testimony to help the state however
releasing them after only 21 years is unacceptable. There is no
way Brand and Winship should serve only 4.2 years for each of the
five murders. Especially when three of those murders involved young
children. We believe Brand and Winship should have served a MINIMUM
of 50 years (10 years for each victim) before being considered
While we do not agree with the plea deals
given to Susan Luff, Sharon Bluntschly and Deborah Olivarez we
do understand the rationale behind those deals. That being said
these women were very fortunate to be given maximum sentences of
25 years. We believe they should serve every day of their 25 years
and should never have been given early release.
Sources: "The Kirtland
Massacre" by Cynthia Salter and Peggy Murphey Widders and "Prophet
of Death" by Pete Early
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