By JOHN McCARTHY
LUCASVILLE, Ohio Oct 24, 2006 (AP)— A religious cult leader was executed Tuesday for murdering a family of five followers who were taken one at a time to a barn, bound and shot to death. The youngest was a girl just 7 years old.
Jeffrey Lundgren, 56, did not think the family was enthusiastic enough about his teachings and referred to the killings during his trial as "pruning the vineyard."
"I profess my love for God, my family, for my children, for Kathy (his wife). I am because you are," Lundgren said in his final statement before he died by injection at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility.
Lundgren was convicted in the slayings of the Avery family Dennis, 49, Cheryl, 41, Trina, 15, Rebecca, 13, and 7-year-old Karen.
In 1989, Lundgren arranged a dinner hosted by cult members. Afterward, he and his followers led the family members one by one the father first, young Karen last to their deaths while the others unknowingly cleaned up after dinner.
Lundgren shot each victim two or three times while a running chain saw muffled the sound of the gunfire.
Lundgren argued at his trial that he was prophet of God and therefore not deserving of the death penalty.
"It's not a figment of my imagination that I can in fact talk to God, that I can hear his voice," he had told the jurors. "I am a prophet of God. I am even more than a prophet."
Lundgren formed the cult with about 20 members in the northeast Ohio town of Kirtland after he was dismissed in 1987 as a lay minister of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, an offshoot of the Mormon church.
He said God commanded him, through interpretation of Scriptures, to kill the Avery family, who had moved from Missouri in 1987 to follow his teachings.
Before the slayings, Lundgren ensured that no one would look for the Averys by directing Cheryl Avery to write to relatives and inform them that the family was moving to Wyoming and would provide contact information when they got settled.
The case was cracked eight months later when a dissident cult member, upset that his wife had been selected to become Lundgren's second wife, tipped off authorities.
Thirteen cult members were charged in the case, including Alice Lundgren, 55, Jeffrey Lundgren's wife at the time of the killings, and their son, Damon, now 35. Both are serving life prison terms.
By RON WORD, Associated Press Writer
Wed Oct 25, 7:36 PM ET
STARKE, Fla. - Danny Harold Rolling, Florida's most notorious serial killer since Ted Bundy, was executed by injection Wednesday for butchering five college students in a ghastly string of slayings that terrorized Gainesville in 1990.
Rolling, 52, was pronounced dead at 6:13 p.m. EDT, more than 16 years after his killing rampage at the start of the University of Florida's fall semester.
When asked for a last statement, Rolling sang for two minutes what sounded like a hymn with the refrain "none greater than thee, O Lord, none greater than thee," witnesses and prison officials said.
He appeared to continue singing after prison officials turned off the microphone, finally stopping just before he died.
The bodies of his victims were found over three days in late August, just as the University of Florida's fall semester was beginning. All had been killed with a hunting knife. Some had been mutilated, sexually assaulted and put in shocking poses. One girl's severed head had been placed on a shelf, her body posed as if seated.
The killing spree touched off a huge manhunt and plunged the laid-back college town into panic. Students fled and residents armed themselves.
Belongings that Rolling left at a campsite in the woods and DNA taken after a later arrest for robbery linked him to the slayings. When he came up for trial in 1994, he shocked the courtroom by pleading guilty.
"There are some things you just can't run from, this being one of those," Rolling told the judge.
He later told The Associated Press: "I do deserve to die, but do I want to die? No. I want to live. Life is difficult to give up."
Dianna Hoyt, who stepdaughter was slain, said the execution marked "the final chapter of this book."
"This man brought this outcome to himself, and the law of the land carried through to show us justice," Hoyt said.
Outside the prison, death penalty opponents stood in a circle singing "Amazing Grace" after Rolling was pronounced dead.
Other onlookers supported the execution. "They're doing a good thing," said Randy Hicks, 35, a truck driver and former prison guard who occasionally watched over Rolling. "This guy deserves it. It's very overdue."
Death penalty protesters said the execution only served to provide Rolling additional attention.
"The state of Florida is giving this psychopathic killer just what he wanted," said Mark Elliott of Clearwater, spokesman for Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.
The attention surrounding Rolling's execution reopened old wounds in Gainesville and for the families of the victims.
The victims' families ran an advertisement Thursday in The Gainesville Sun, thanking the community for its support: "We hope you will remember August 1990 and the years that followed without any sense of community shame for what has happened here. You turned a blemish into a rose."
Rolling was calm and cooperative ahead of the execution, Corrections Department spokesman Robby Cunningham said. He spent several hours with his brother Kevin and his brother's pastor, officials said.
The gathering of people on a barren cow pasture across from the prison was reminiscent of the crowds that assembled for Bundy's execution on Jan. 24, 1989 in the state's old electric chair. Bundy was suspected in the deaths and disappearances of 36 women across the country.
Bundy died in the electric chair in 1989 in the same death chamber. The case was still fresh in the minds of many when Rolling's killings began the following year in roughly the same area as some of Bundy's crimes.
Rolling, a police officer's son from Shreveport, La., arrived in Gainesville on a Greyhound bus, pitched a tent in the woods near campus and set out to become, as he would say later, a "superstar" among criminals.
The bodies of Sonja Larson, 18, and Christina Powell, 17, were found stabbed to death in a townhouse just off the University of Florida campus. Christa Hoyt, 18, was found decapitated the next morning in her isolated duplex. Tracy Paules and Manny Taboada, both 23, were discovered dead a day later in the apartment they shared.
For months, a task force of local, state and federal agents followed hundreds of leads and took blood samples from dozens of men. They did not know that Rolling was already behind bars for robbing a grocery store.
Then authorities in Shreveport, investigating a triple slaying that they believe Rolling committed, suggested police check out the drifter and ex-con.
Rolling blamed the murders on abuse he suffered as a child and his treatment in prison, and claimed he had good and bad multiple personalities.
But in a letter to The Associated Press in 2002, Rolling wrote: "I assure you I am not a salivating ogre. Granted ... time's past; the dark era of long ago — Dr. Jeckle & Mr. Hyde did strike up & down the corridors of insanety."
He said he killed one person for every year he was behind bars. He served a total of eight years in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi before the killings.
Rolling was the 63rd inmate to be put to death since Florida resumed executions in 1979 and the third this year.
HUNTSVILLE - Gregory Summers was executed Wednesday for initiating a murder-for-hire plot that authorities said led to the fatal stabbing of his parents and an uncle.
The lethal injection of Summers, 48, came more than seven years after the execution of Andrew Cantu, convicted of taking the $10,000 offer and fatally stabbing Gene and Helen Summers, both 64, and Billy Mack Summers, 60. Their home in Abilene was set on fire after they were attacked, and their bodies were found in the rubble.
Gregory Summers was the 22nd inmate executed this year in Texas, the nation's most active death penalty state. Summers offered no final statement.