FBI pursuing new leads in manhunt for last LeBaron fugitive

The FBI is pursuing fresh leads in the search for the last wanted member of Ervil LeBaron’s murderous polygamous family — believing that some of her old ties here in Utah may still be helping her.

Federal authorities on Tuesday released a new photograph of Jacqueline Tarsa LeBaron taken last year in Honduras by a man who befriended her on a trip to the Latin American country.

“He met her socially,” FBI Special Agent Juan Becerra said of the man. “They happened to become friends because they both spoke English and Spanish.”

The man came back to the United States and read a news article about the renewed search for LeBaron, who was added to the FBI’s Most Wanted list in the years since she disappeared in 1988. LeBaron is wanted in connection with four murders carried out simultaneously, believed to be in the name of her father, polygamist leader Ervil LeBaron.

The man recognized her and called federal agents. He also gave them a photograph of the 42-year-old woman considered armed and dangerous and living under more than 15 aliases.

“It’s definitely a step in the right direction, and we’re pleased with the information that’s been generated so far,” said Special Agent Shauna Dunlap of the FBI’s Houston office, where the hunt for LeBaron is based.

“We hope it continues to generate information from the public. That’s what’s going to solve this case, is a tip called in from the public,” she said Tuesday.

The FBI tried to have the man contact the woman, who was going by a different name.

“He tried to get a hold of their contacts down there,” Becerra said. “She’d since left Honduras.”

Federal agents believe LeBaron is still living in Latin America, working as a teacher. The FBI in Salt Lake City also believes that someone in Utah may still be in contact with LeBaron.

“There are strong ties to Utah, and somebody in this community — whether they’re in the underbelly of polygamy — they may know where she’s at,” Becerra told the Deseret Morning News. “Give it up.”

On June 27, 1988, at approximately 4 p.m., four slayings were carried out simultaneously in Houston and Irving, Texas. All of the victims were killed by shotgun blasts to the head, including an 8-year-old girl who witnessed her father’s murder.

The deaths were believed to be connected to Ervil LeBaron’s scriptures that preached “blood atonement” to those who broke the Church of the Lamb of God’s commandments. LeBaron ordered the assassination of a rival polygamist leader in 1977 and died in the Utah State Prison in 1981.

In the years after Ervil LeBaron’s death, there were a series of slayings and suspicious deaths involving as many as 30 former church members, including the four that Jacqueline Tarsa LeBaron is accused of participating in.

In 1992, six members of the LeBaron family were indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of murder, conspiracy to obstruct religious beliefs and racketeering. Five were convicted. Jacqueline is the only one to remain at large.

Last year, the Deseret Morning News reported that some of the ex-members of the LeBaron group still live in fear of the infamous “hit list.” The FBI refuses to say if the list remains active, but said recent stories have generated fresh leads for agents to follow.

“From your stories, that publicity assisted in gaining additional interest in her,” Dunlap said. “That has certainly helped.”

The FBI is offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to LeBaron’s capture. Anyone with information is urged to contact their local FBI office or the Houston branch at 713-693-5000.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday February 20, 2008.
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