Polygamists’ Murder Trial Is Ending

The polygamist leader John Singer was shot to death by law officers nine years ago, but he has been evoked constantly here at the murder trial of three young men who took up arms for his cause.

His son, John Timothy Singer, has testified with anguish about his father’s death, as has Addam Swapp, who is the husband of two Singer daughters and is his father-in-law’s spiritual heir.

Mr. Swapp’s brother Jonathan wears the late Mr. Singer’s handmade buckskin coat. Each day the defendants bring volumes of Mormon scripture to the courtroom. On Monday in Third Circuit Court here, lawyers will make their closing arguments and the jury, after nine days of testimony, will begin deliberating.

John T. Singer and the Swapp brothers are charged with murdering a state officer in a gunfight last winter that ended the sect’s 13-day standoff with the police at a homestead in Marion, Utah. Bombing on Anniversary of Death

The three young men were said to have bombed a nearby Mormon chapel Jan. 16, the ninth anniversary of the elder Mr. Singer’s death, and retreated to the family compound in Marion.

The clan leader, Addam Swapp, 27 years old, said the bombing was prompted by a divine revelation. ”It has to do with the injustices perpetrated against our family,” he testified. ”John Singer was shot in the back, and nobody cared. The truth has been trampled on more than once, and we took a stand. We knew we had to do it. We knew we had to take one day at a time and trust in our God.”

Lieut. Fred House of the Corrections Department, who had joined a Federal Bureau of Investigation team in an attempt to arrest the Swapps Jan. 28, was ordering a police dog to move in when rifle fire from the wheelchair-bound John T. Singer killed him.

Hoped for a ‘Resurrection’

Addam Swapp, an excommunicated Mormon, married Heidi Singer in 1980 and her sister Charlotte a few years later. He is the father of seven children. He has said he believed the bombing of the Mormon chapel would cause John Singer’s ”resurrection.”

The elder Mr. Singer’s widow, Vickie, says his death resulted from a conspiracy between state authorities and church officials who were angry at his practice of polygamy and refusal to send his children to public schools. The Mormon church officially abandoned polygamy in 1890.

The Singers, who are also excommunicated Mormons, schooled their children at home and said they were shielding the children from a system tainted by sexual promiscuity, drug abuse and racial mixing.

Finally, fearing that the state would place his children in foster homes, John Singer, who was 48, holed up in the compound for 18 days before he was shot by officers in 1979. The police said he pointed a gun at officers trying to arrest him. Tape’s Version of Killing

In an interview taped by Federal agents and played for the jury, John Timothy Singer said his father was shot as he walked to a mailbox.

”All these men zoomed in on him on snowmobiles, 10 men, what I’ve heard,” he said. ”And he pulled out his gun and he, you know – ‘Back off, I don’t want any trouble now.’ And he turned around to run home, my sister saw this through binoculars, and as he turned around to run home they shot him two to three times in the back.”

The witness, a thin, quiet man who became a paraplegic after a logging accident four years ago, spoke of his mother’s wrongful-death lawsuit, which was dismissed by a Federal judge for insufficient evidence. ”I mean, we couldn’t get justice,” he said.

If convicted, he and the Swapps face five years to life in prison. Addam Swapp has already been sentenced to 15 years in prison on Federal charges in the bombing and standoff. John T. Singer and Jonathan Swapp were given 10-year sentences in that case and Vickie Singer got five years. The trial on state charges was delayed until the Federal verdicts were delivered.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Monday December 19, 1988.
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