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Notorious ‘Polygamist’s Daughter’ shares her story of healing

SALT LAKE CITY -- Anna LeBaron grew up unaware that her father was so feared and wanted by police.

"We were told we were being persecuted because we were God's chosen people," she said.

As a child, she barely knew him.

"Even though he was this infamous cult leader and responsible for these crimes against so many people, as a daughter...," she said in an interview Friday with FOX 13. "I believe every child has that need for fathering. We didn't get that."

Anna LeBaron is a daughter of Ervil LeBaron, one of Utah's most notorious criminals. She is one of 50 children he had with 13 wives. In her new book, "The Polygamist's Daughter," she tells her life story and how she found the strength to overcome the trauma of her childhood.

A jail booking mugshot of polygamist leader Ervil LeBaron.

The leader of The Church of the First Born of the Lamb of God, Ervil LeBaron ordered the killings of rivals. After being arrested in Mexico and a sensational trial in Utah, he died in the Utah State Prison in 1981.

The killings continued after his death. They were attributed to a book Ervil LeBaron wrote, a sort-of Bible entitled "The Book of the New Covenant." Authorities describe it as a "hit list" that branded enemies of his church as "Sons of Perdition," and is linked to dozens of deaths, accidental or otherwise.

One particularly heinous crime: "The Four O'Clock Murders." In 1988, in two different parts of Texas, four people were killed at four o'clock in the afternoon. Anna LeBaron said she almost became one of the victims.

"I was supposed to be with him (murder victim Mark Chynoweth) in the office that day. Had I been there, and witnessed the crime, I would have been killed, too," she said.

She describes living in squalor throughout her childhood. Despite being the daughter of a religious fanatic, Anna said she did not get much religious training.

"Thank God," she laughs.

At age 13, a year after her father's death, she ran away from home. Anna said she learned what he had done by reading a book that was written about him.

"It was very chilling. Horrifying. Harrowing," she said. "I read this book and see the names of people I loved and cared about and they're dead. I didn't know they were dead."

In the years since "The Book of the New Covenant," some former members of the LeBaron group went into hiding. (In a 2009 interview with FOX 13, Irene Spencer, a wife of Ervil LeBaron's brother, Verlan, was asked when she believed it would be safe to stop looking over her shoulder. She replied: "When I'm dead.")

Anna said she maintains contact with members of her family, including her siblings, who have all rejected their father's preaching. She testified in support of her sister, Jacqueline LeBaron, who carried out one of the Texas slayings in 1988 and was arrested in Honduras after 20 years on the run. Her sister was released from federal prison a few years ago and is getting treatment, Anna said.

Anna said she has also spent a long time healing, getting over the trauma of her childhood.

"I'm really proud of my LeBaron name now, because of the healing I've done," she said. "I'm no longer ashamed to be called a LeBaron and the stigma attached with being Ervil's daughter or Ervil's child is no longer a part of my life."

LeBaron is scheduled to talk about her book Saturday at the Barnes & Noble in Sugar House and Monday at the public library in Hildale.