Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Jeffrey Don Lundgren, Prophet of Death

A Prophet is Born

Claiming to be a prophet or messenger from God carries with it a certain responsibility; by doing so, one is proclaiming a sacred covenant between ones self and God. As a society we are all too familiar with how these proclamations can become twisted to the point where these self-professed men of God use their manipulation and status to commit the most shocking blasphemy — breaking the ultimate commandment — "Thou Shall not Kill." On April 17, 1989, Jeffrey Lundgren, a self-professed prophet, did just that by executing five innocent people in cold blood.

Jeffrey Don Lundgren was born on May 3, 1950, in Independence, Missouri, the son of Don and Lois Gadberry Lundgren. Jeff's father had a prosperous job in construction and his mother did her best to meet the needs of Jeff and his younger brother, while taking care to see that the household was kept in immaculate order. The Lundgren family were very active participants in the local Reorganized Church of Latter Day Saints Church (RLDS), a splinter of the Mormon Church.

Friends of the family have said that while the Lundgrens did their best to raise the children, they were anything but role-model parents. Don was very strict with the children, often seriously punishing them for trivial childish infractions, while Lois was often times distant and inflexible. Jeff states today that he was physically abused as a child; however, these claims have yet to be confirmed by any close member of the family.

During his teen years, Jeff had very few friends and was considered an arrogant loner by classmates. A neighbor recalls one day having witnessed Jeff nail a small rabbit to a piece of wood before beating it to death. Besides the obvious animal cruelty, it is noted that psychologists have long claimed that youths who abuse animals are most likely to commit acts of violence later in life.

As Jeff grew older, his father decided to share his passion of hunting and guns with his elder son. Don would often spend hours with Jeff teaching him how to care for and maintain firearms and eventually how to use them for survival and hunting.

Upon graduating from high school, Jeff enrolled at Central Missouri State University, majoring in electronics. During his sophomore year, he spent most of his free time at an RLDS student house. It was there that Jeff met Keith Johnson and Alice Keehler. While he did not realize it at the time, these new friends would have a significant effect on his life and beliefs.

Alice Elizabeth Keehler was born on January 21, 1951 in Mack's Creek, Missouri (160 miles outside of Independence). Proud parents Ralph and Donna Keehler were delighted with their first-born child. Ralph was a veteran of World War II and employed as an ironworker. Donna stayed at home, raised the children, and took care of the home. Ralph was not around much during Alice's childhood as his job was some 150 miles from home. Weekends were usually the only time the family was able to spend time together.

Two sisters and a brother eventually joined Alice. She seemed to be a happy child up until the age of twelve when her father was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Ralph was no longer able to provide for the family and money soon ran short. Donna took a secretarial position at the local welfare office in order to support the family. The brunt of Ralph's illness and child rearing rested on Alice's shoulders. Ralph was soon on a wide variety of cocktail medications, including prednisone and cortisone. These drugs, combined with his growing depression, often times led to violence directed towards Alice and her siblings.

During her high school years, Alice was a bit of a loner preferring the local church youth group rather than participating in school activities. Upon graduating from high school, she enrolled at Central Missouri State University. She became very active in the youth church group and soon took the fancy of Jeffrey Don Lundgren. The two immediately started to spend time together and were soon inseparable.

By 1969, Alice was pregnant and both she and Jeff dropped out of college. Don and Lois were extremely disappointed by their son's irresponsibility and refused to attend the couple's wedding in the spring of 1970.

In order to support his new family, Jeff enlisted in the United States Navy. Shortly after leaving for basic training on December 2, 1970, the couple's first child, Damon Paul, was born. Jeff served four years in the Navy as an electronics technician before receiving an honorable discharge in July of 1974. Two weeks before the discharge, Alice gave birth to their second son, Jason Don.

Jeff and Alice lived in San Diego, California, with their two children following his discharge from the service. The couple once again became active in the RLDS Church and would often times look for friends to convert to their faith. Supporting the ever-growing family soon became a problem, so Jeff decided to move them back to the Independence area in hopes of securing a well paying job. Try as he may, he could not hold down any job for more than a few weeks at a time, due to his irresponsible nature and attitude. On June 21, 1979, the couple's third child, Kristen Michelle, was born. Some say Alice planned this pregnancy in order to save the couple's marriage and to curb Jeff's wandering eye.

Shortly after the birth of Kristen, Jeff would regularly abuse Alice and the children. At one point Jeff pushed her down a flight of stairs. The fall was so severe that it caused Alice to rupture her spleen. Emergency surgery was required to repair the damage.

On September 13, 1980, their fourth child, Caleb Matthew, was born. As with the birth of Kristen, family members speculated that this pregnancy was yet another attempt by Alice to hold their rocky marriage together.

In 1981, Jeff was asked to join the RLDS lay priesthood; however, he later stated that it was at this time that he lost all faith in the church and its teachings. Their liberal tendencies (e.g. allowing women to be ordained as priests) particularly upset him.

Jeff felt that Scripture contained the truth and it was now his duty to find the answers. He started a Mormon splinter group and began holding study groups in his home. Members included friends from college like Dennis and Tonya Patrick, Dennis and Cheryl Avery, and Jeff's cousin Debbie Olivarez.

Jeff seemed to have a way with people and attracted a number of followers that truly believed he had uncovered the truth in Scripture. According to a friend of Jeff's cousin Debbie, people appeared to worship the ground he walked on, and would often donate money to support the Lundgren family.

Jeff soon grew greedy and became unhappy with the small sums of money that his followers were giving to him. He eventually announced to his flock that it was time for him to move on and that the Scriptures were commanding him to move to Kirtland, Ohio, in order to receive his true power from God.

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