Mark Chynoweth, a committed follower of Ervil LeBaron and his group, embraced their teachings and even married one of LeBaron’s daughters. However, he became one of the targets in the shootings orchestrated in June 1988. His story is explored in ‘Daughters of the Cult,’ shedding light on the events that altered perceptions about him and ultimately made him a target of the very group to which he had dedicated his life.
How Did Mark Chynoweth Die?
Mark Chynoweth’s family joined the LeBaron sect when it was led by Joel LeBaron, later following Ervil when he separated from Joel’s group in 1972. The entire family, including Mark, were dedicated followers of the latter and his newly established Church of the Lamb of God. In fact, his sister, Rena Chynoweth, was proposed for marriage by the leader when she was just 16, claiming that he had received a divine revelation instructing him to marry her. The Chynoweth family thus further became closely integrated into Ervil’s sect, with Mark playing a significant role as his confidant, allegedly even being involved in various murders, including that of rival fundamentalist leader Rulon Allred as a planner. He had also married one of LeBaron’s daughters, Lillian LeBaron.
However, on June 27, 1988, 36-year-old Mark Chynoweth, the owner of an appliance store in Houston, Texas, was killed. According to reports, he’d received a call requesting a washing machine delivery. Choosing to send his brother Duane for it. along with Duane’s 8-year-old daughter, Jennifer, Mark stayed at the shop. At approximately 4 p.m., a man clad in a navy blue suit, a hat, and sunglasses entered the shop and targeted Mark with three bullets to the head. Simultaneously, his brother Duane and young niece Jennifer were also shot by an individual dressed similarly. In another location near Irving, Eddie Marston, another sect member, faced the same fate. This coordinated series of murders became infamous as the “4 o’clock murders.”
Who Killed Mark Chynoweth?
Contrary to the stereotypical behavior within the sect, Mark Chynoweth was apparently incredibly caring, as described by fellow members in the documentary. Despite being married to Lillian at a young age, he did not engage in polygamous relationships or groom her. Instead, he cared for her from childhood, and they were regarded as an exemplary couple within the community. Raising a family together, Mark demonstrated love and care for his kids, standing out as a positive figure among the group. Despite his close association with father-in-law/leader Ervil, Mark’s involvement in the killing of Rulon Allred, the rival group’s leader, was allegedly motivated by the group’s pursuit of property and women. He later faced trial for this but was acquitted.
However, Ervil was convicted in 1980. While imprisoned, he penned his thoughts in what became known as the ‘Book of New Commandments’. Filled with violent ideas and proclamations, this text included a lot about the controversial concept of “blood atonement”. In this context, he’d listed approximately 50 individuals whom he believed had wronged him and hence should be killed. Targets included those who’d left the group, rebelled against it, or even questioned its authority. As the list reached senior leaders like Mark, he disagreed with its extremity and distanced himself from the group. He opted to live separately with his wife, Lillian LeBaron, and their children, signaling a growing divide within the sect.
In contrast to other households in the group, Mark’s daily routine stood out. The most notable difference was his choice not to embrace polygamy, a requirement for being treated and accepted as a “celestial body” in the sect. Then while he, along with some others in the group, disassociated himself from Ervil’s extreme writings following his incarceration, the concept of “blood atonement” reached Arturo LeBaron, Ervil’s appointed successor. Arturo passed this idea to a faction of their family residing in Mexico. So, when Aaron LeBaron assumed leadership of the sect, following a brief stint by William Herber, he deemed it time to fulfill his father’s wishes encapsulated in the violent doctrine of “blood atonement.”
Aaron LeBaron embarked on a mission to carry out the violent directives outlined in ‘Book of New Commandments,’ leading to the aforementioned simultaneous murders of four individuals on June 27, 1998, including that of Mark. Aaron had asked some members of his sect, such as Cynthia LeBaron, to keep an eye on and report to him and it was William Heber LeBaron, Aaron’s elder brother, who had pulled the trigger, killing Mark. In a series of crimes, Aaron reportedly also orchestrated the killing of Dan Jordan, a significant and influential figure in the group. Although news of the murders circulated rapidly, law enforcement faced a challenging investigation due to the absence of concrete evidence. The case lingered as a cold case for years until, eventually, former members came forward with the truth. That’s how Heber was given a life sentence in 1993 and Aaron LeBaron was handed down 45 years in 1997.