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Cult Leader’s Son Sentenced to 120 Years in Prison for Slaying Five

October 5, 1990 GMT

PAINESVILLE, Ohio (AP) _ The teen-age son of a cult leader was sentenced Friday to a minimum 120 years in prison for helping to kill four members of a family, crimes he blamed on his father.

Damon Lundgren, 19, stood with folded hands and appeared calm as Lake County Common Pleas Judge Paul H. Mitrovich sentenced him for his role in the deaths of Dennis Avery and Avery’s three daughters. He was acquitted in the death of Avery’s wife, Cheryl.

The Averys belonged to the religious cult headed by Damon’s father, Jeffrey Lundgren. The Averys were led, one by one, into a barn on April 17, 1989, bound and gagged with duct tape, then shot and dumped in a common grave.

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Damon Lundgren received consecutive sentences of 20 years to life for each of four counts of aggravated murder, and consecutive sentences of 10 to 25 years on each of four counts of kidnapping.

He would not be eligible for parole for at least 80 years.

Defense lawyers said they would seek a new trial.

Mitrovich chastised Damon Lundgren for not accepting responsibility.

″You accept no blame. You blame your father. You claim this was your father’s doing and none of your own,″ the judge said.

″Jeffrey Lundgren could not have done anything without the help and devotion of you and his other followers. Society cannot tolerate such excuses,″ he said.

The teen-ager was the last of his family sentenced in the case. His father received a death sentence. His mother, Alice Lundgren, was sentenced to five life terms for conspiracy, complicity and kidnapping.

Friends of Damon Lundgren’s sat in the court gallery and wept as he was sentenced. They had offered a petition bearing 514 signatures of people asking that he receive the minimum sentence of life with chance of parole after 20 years.

″I know the kind of person he is,″ said former classmate Jim Ford, 19.

″I know the kind of person his dad is, and I feel his dad had everything to do with the cult and the killings,″ Ford said, ″and he was a very overpowering person, and Damon was the type of person who could be pulled into someone who could lead him around.″

The Averys were killed at a farm the cult rented at Kirtland, about 30 miles east of Cleveland. Authorities found the bodies Jan. 4.

Thirteen cult members were subsequently arrested. Some have pleaded guilty to reduced charges.

Jeffrey Lundgren, 40, was defrocked as a lay minister of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints before forming his cult.

He said he considered himself a prophet of God and received instructions to kill the Aveys through interpretation of Scriptures.

Defense lawyers argued that Damon Lundgren was so strictly raised and controlled by his father that he was unable to disobey orders to help wrestle Dennis Avery to the ground and help bind and gag him.