Jury gets sect murder case

By Scott North

Herald Writer

The fates of two former members of a violent religious sect who claim they killed on God’s orders are once again in the hands of a Snohomish County jury.

Christopher Turgeon, 37, and Blaine Applin, 31, are charged with first-degree murder in the 1998 shooting death of Dan Jess.

Jurors began deliberating in the case late Thursday afternoon. No verdict was announced.

Turgeon and Applin first went on trial for the killing in May, but a mistrial was declared after jurors deadlocked 11-1, with a majority voting to convict.

Turgeon, Applin and Jess were all members of a group founded by Turgeon called The Gatekeepers. Turgeon, who claims to be a modern manifestation of the biblical prophet Elijah, taught his followers that God wants them to kill those Turgeon deemed wicked, including homosexuals, doctors who perform abortions and people who believe in equal rights for women.

Jess was marked for death because he supposedly had turned on the group.

The second trial began three weeks ago and was largely a replay of the first. Not only were many of the same witnesses called to testify, the attorneys used many of the same phrases to make their points in closing arguments.

Lawyers for Turgeon and Applin argued the pair are innocent by reason of insanity.

Defense attorneys Guss Markwell and Royce Ferguson tried to show Turgeon has a longstanding delusion with religious overtones and was unable to appreciate right and wrong because his will was overcome by what he considered a decree from God.

Applin’s attorney, Pete Mazzone, attempted to portray his client as a man so in the thrall of a cult leader that he was unable to form the intent to commit a crime.

Deputy prosecutor David Kurtz argued that the case was about right and wrong and choices.

"These men were not zombies. Their free will had not been destroyed," he said.

You can call Herald Writer Scott North at 425-339-3431

or send e-mail to north@heraldnet.com.

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