May 13, 2008
Woman wrote a tell-all book following trial
PHOENIX - In the wake of that dramatic raid on a polygamous compound in Texas, there's been a lot of talk about mind control inside secretive sects.
3TV’s Mike Watkiss talks to a woman who knows all about mind control, a woman who says she committed murder in the name of God.
Watkiss had been waiting to interview this woman for nearly 20 years. Her name is Rena Chynoweth. She is a charming 48-year old woman who did not want us to identify even the state she lives in. She readily admits that, at the age of 19, she committed a cold-blooded murder.
It is a story Rena now thinks bears repeating in light of what is going on in Texas. “I don’t want any more kids to go through what I went through,” says Chynoweth. Like many people in this country Chynoweth has been following the strange events unfolding in West Texas during the last several weeks.
The story of that messy law enforcement raid and the secret society that it revealed. “That was me,” says Chynoweth. “I was looking at me 30 years ago.”
Indeed for Chynoweth the story is not so much a revelation of secrets, but instead a startling glimpse at her own painful past. A past that saw Rena, at the age of 16, taken as the 13th wife of a 49-year-old polygamist man by the name of Ervil LeBaron, a self-proclaimed prophet sometimes referred to as the “Mormon Manson.” He was a guy who is believed to have ordered the murders of nearly 30 people including one particularly notorious and cold-blooded killing that Chynoweth now admits she carried out for her husband when she was only 19 years old.
“It was something that I would never have done ever … if I hadn’t been under the complete control of somebody else who had convinced me it was God’s will,” Chynoweth admits.
It happened in the late '70s as Rena’s prophet husband LeBaron began preaching a highly poisonous doctrine of hatred and murder, ordering family and friends to kill his enemies. It was a bloody hit list that included one of his brothers, one of his daughters, and one special murder that LeBaron assigned to his young wife and another female follower: The assassination of a rival polygamist leader, a 71-year-old Salt Lake chiropractor by the name of Rulon Allred.
Chynoweth explains, “Ervil set it up to where it was this big important job. God wanted this to happen.”
Over a two-week period they planned the murder, went to New Mexico and traveled into Wyoming. Along the way they stopped and purchased wigs, weapons and disguises. In the afternoon they drove to Dr. Allred office and went into the waiting room.
Once they were in the waiting room, Rena spotted the doctor and began to fire. Seven shots later the doctor was dead and 19-year-old Chynoweth was on the run as a wanted killer. She says, “I did what I was told and it was an awful experience. If I hadn’t done what I’d done, he would’ve killed me. ”
The bizarre story is far from over. Eventually, Rena’s prophet husband was caught and convicted for ordering the murder of Allred. LeBaron was sent to a Utah prison where he died in 1981. Chynoweth was also eventually tracked down and put on trial, but she beat the system. She was found not guilty. Knowing she could never be tried for murder again, Rena then wrote a fascinating tell-all book in which she openly confessed to the killing of Allred. She even went on a television talk show to tell her story.
Outraged by what they saw as a travesty of justice, Allred’s family sued Rena and in the 1990s was awarded a whopping $52 million judgment against Chynoweth, a penalty that proved to be more symbol than substance, as the Allred Family never collected a penny.
For her part, Rena then retreated into a quiet and self-imposed anonymity until today.
For more than a decade Rena and her new husband have very privately deported and raised more than a dozen children whose parents were murdered by the LeBaron cult and now Rena is stepping forward, hoping that her personal insights into the mind control of polygamist sects will be helpful to Texas officials, as they continue to care for nearly 500 children removed from that polygamist compound in Eldorado, Texas.