Confessions of a White Salamander
1. A DEADLY SALAMANDER
"Then the madness of desperation caught the Salamander; and he ran through the garden, dashing forth fire and flames; and wasted it in his wild fury, till its fairest flowers and blossoms hung down, blackened and scathed; and their lamentation filled the air. The indignant Prince of the Spirits, in his wrath, laid hold of the Salamander, and said: 'Your fire has burnt out, your flames are extinguished, your rays darkened: sink down to the Spirits of the Earth; let them mock and jeer you, and keep you captive...' " (The Best Tales of Hoffmann, page 46)
In the book, Tracking The White Salamander, I related the remarkable story of how a returned Mormon missionary named Mark Hofmann became involved in forgery and eventually planted bombs which killed two people. Mr. Hofmann fooled the top leaders of the Mormon Church, noted document experts, historians, the FBI and even prominent polygraph examiners. While Mr. Hofmann was once honored by Mormon and non-Mormon scholars, he is now considered a villainperhaps one of the greatest con men of the 20th century. On February 11, 1987, the New York Times published an article by Robert Lindsey which contained the following:
"According to criminal investigators here and court documents, the 32-year-old Mr. Hofmann fooled not only senior members of the Mormon hierarchy but also scores of document collectors around the country and virtually all of the nation's top forgery experts.
" 'Mark Hofmann was unquestionably the most skilled forger this country has ever seen,' said Charles Hamilton, a New York document dealer who is widely regarded as the nation's preeminent detector of forged documents....
"Mr. Hamilton said Mr. Hofmann 'perpetrated by far the largest monetary frauds through forgery that this country has ever had,' adding, 'He fooled mehe fooled everybody.'...
"Among those fooled by Mr. Hofmann's documents were hundreds of specialists in Mormon history....
"Investigators have said that Mr. Hofmann was as successful in selling forged documents in New York as he was in Utah. They say he may have collected more than $2 million selling rare documents purportedly written or signed by such literary and historical figures as Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Jack London and Jim Bridger,...
"After examining the white salamander letter, experts working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation said they could find no evidence that it was forged, a conclusion also made by Kenneth W. Rendell, a Newton, Mass., document dealer who is often ranked with Mr. Hamilton among the nation's leading detectors of forged documents....
"Concluding his assessment of Mr. Hofmann, Mr. Hamilton said: 'In a way, two murders are pedestrian crimes. But to fool me, to fool Ken Rendell, to fool the whole world, requires not only forgery but a packaging of himself. He packaged himself as a bespectacled, sweet, unobtrusive, hard working, highly intelligent scholar dedicated to the uncovering of history. Now we know he's more than he appeared to be.' "
The reason I have chosen the title, Confessions of a White Salamander, for this book is that Mark Hofmann bears remarkable parallels to the salamander mentioned in his most controversial forgery the White Salamander letter. In that letter a "white salamander" transfigured "himself" into a "spirit," took the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith off guard and struck him "3 times." Mark Hofmann, who appeared to be a harmless and well-mannered member of the Mormon Church, also transformed himself into a very aggressive individual when he built three bombs which killed two prominent members of the church. (The third bomb exploded in Hofmann's own car and seriously injured him.) In the Salamander letter the white salamander, in the form of the "old spirit," told Joseph Smith to "dig up the gold"i. e. the gold plates which were translated into the Book of Mormon. When Smith tried to obtain it, however, the old spirit "held the treasure & would not let me have it..." This reminds one of Mark Hofmann's so-called McLellin collection, a very valuable and controversial collection, which he dangled before Mormon officials but would not let them actually obtain it. (While the spirit in the Salamander letter eventually allowed Joseph Smith to have the gold plates, Mark Hofmann never let the Mormons obtain the McLellin collection. The reason, of course, was that he never had such a collection.) In the Salamander letter the white salamander took delight in tricking Joseph Smith: "...the spirit says I tricked you again..." From his own confession, it appears that Mark Hofmann also derived pleasure in tricking the Mormon prophets.
In identifying Mark Hofmann as the "white salamander," I am only suggesting that at a certain period in his life he acted like the salamander he mentioned in his forgery. I do not mean to imply that he will always behave that way. One scholar has suggested that because of the hideous crimes Hofmann has committed he should never be referred to as "Mr. Hofmann." Although I certainly cannot defend his actions, I feel that we should remember that he is still a human being who desperately needs God in his life. If the Lord could change a man like Paul, He certainly could work in Mark Hofmann's life.
In Appendix F of Tracking the White Salamander, which was added to the book in early 1987, I told how Mark Hofmann finally broke his silence, entered into a plea agreement and was sent to the Utah State Prison. One of the conditions of this agreement was that he would meet with attorneys from the Salt Lake County Attorney's Office and give them details concerning his crimes. On July 31, 1987, the transcript of the interviews with Hofmann was released and we photographically reproduced it in three volumes under the title, Hofmann's Confession. Although the publication of the entire transcript is of interest to those who want to make a detailed study of Hofmann's crimes, I felt that the average person would have a hard time going through almost 600 pages of material. In this book I have extracted the important portions of Mark Hofmann's testimony and have added commentary which throws additional light on the subject.
In the Salt Lake City Messenger, September 1987, we published the following concerning the transcripts:
"There has been quite a bit of criticism with regard to Mark Hofmann's confession, and many people wonder if he has told us the truth. One defect... is that it does not tell us enough about the murders. While we wish that Mr. Hofmann had revealed more, we can understand his reluctance. Talking about forgery is entirely different than talking about murder. Very few people would want to have their confession to such gruesome crimes published to the world. In a normal case a murderer is not required to make a public confession of the details of the crime. At one time we were doing research with regard to a man who had committed murder and had entered into a plea bargain agreement. We discovered that there was no public record available detailing the crime. Mr. Hofmann, as we have shown in the March 1987 issue of the Messenger, did go into court and admitted he had committed the murders. Fortunately, the news media were present to record his confession of guilt. In addition, we have a few statements by Hofmann himself in the transcripts and the prosecutors' summary of what went on at earlier meetings. While we would really like to have hundreds of pages of testimony on the bombings, we do feel fortunate to have what we do.
"There is another defect in the transcripts that does disturb us. We had told prosecutors that in order to really convince the public that Mark Hofmann was acting alone in the forgeries, they needed to have him write out a sample of all the different styles of writing found in the forgeries. His known handwriting does not appear to be very good. If he could not match the quality found in the forgeries, we would know that he was not the master forger and that there was a co-conspirator or co-conspirators, which, of course, could even raise questions concerning the murders. It has been claimed that Mark Hofmann did write some samples for investigators and that these samples did satisfy them that he was, in fact, the only one involved in the forgeries which have been charged. Unfortunately, however, these samples were not published with the transcripts, and, strange as it may seem, it was claimed that Hofmann's attorney had possession of them. We feel that prosecutors need to publish handwritten samples so that people can make their own decision. Although we have no reason to distrust Hofmann's attorney, it would be better if new samples were taken in the presence of witnesses so that we would know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they had come from Hofmann's own hand. Furthermore, they should be submitted to noted handwriting experts to verify that all the forgeries were written by Hofmann himself. Until this is done, we can not be absolutely certain that there were no co-conspirators.
"Other than this problem and the lack of material on the murders, we are very impressed with the transcripts. In our wildest imagination we could never have dreamed that Mark Hofmann would make such a detailed confession. For instance, he certainly did not have to tell his true feelings concerning Mormonism, yet he has freely admitted his complete unbelief in the system. From our own investigation into Hofmann's activities we know that many of the facts he relates are true. In almost every respect he has vindicated the work which we have done on his forgeries during the last three and a half years. Even though we knew that we had good solid evidence, we felt that it was rather daring to publish the book, Tracking the White Salamander, before the case came to trial. If Mr. Hofmann had stone-walled and refused to confess his guilt, we would have had a difficult time convincing some people that the theories published in that book were correct. As it is, however, Mr. Hofmann has confirmed our research. He not only admits that our theory concerning the origin of the Salamander letter is correct, but also that we gave correct sources for the Joseph Smith III Blessing and the Lucy Smith letter. Furthermore, although he refused to discuss the 1873 Martin Harris letter because it was not on the list of items he was charged with forging, the statements he made concerning Walter Conrad, the man who was supposed to receive Harris' letter, definitely show that the letter is a forgery something we have tried to prove since 1984."
We at Utah Lighthouse Ministry began our investigation of Mark Hofmann's documents nineteen months before local and federal investigators began working on the Salt Lake Bombings' case. In this inquiry we obtained information from Washington, D.C. and ten different states. We even interviewed a convicted murderer at the Utah State Prison. We will probably never know exactly what role our material on Hofmann's forgeries played in the investigation made by the authorities. One investigator, however, did acknowledge to us that he was asked to test some of our theories. The Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office contacted us not long after Mark Hofmann became the chief suspect in the murders and wanted to know what material we had to establish forgery. After that we had many conversations with investigators. Our printed material was carefully examined by the Salt Lake County Attorney's Office, and we spent two full days answering questions concerning it and the contacts we had with Hofmann and his associates. We were strongly encouraged to keep in touch with the County Attorney's Office and give the prosecutors any new ideas or information that came to mind. One of the investigators felt that I should give testimony at Hofmann's trial. He believed that this would give historical perspective to the case they were trying to build against the documents. Although this investigator seemed to be rather excited about the idea, we seriously doubt that the County Attorney's Office would have wanted to put a witness on the stand who was so deeply involved in controversy over the truthfulness of Mormonism. In any case, it would have been interesting to demonstrate how closely our evidence, derived from historical investigation, dovetailed with the hard evidence which document experts obtained from physical testing. Before Hofmann was questioned at the Utah State Prison, we were asked by a detective to prepare a list of questions which we felt investigators should ask him. As it turned out, however, the detectives were not allowed to question Hofmann. The questions were all asked by the prosecutors from the County Attorney's Office. Since Mr. Hofmann would not allow a detective to join in the questioning concerning the murders, the County Attorney's Office terminated the interviews.
In the pages which follow I will be quoting from my book Tracking the White SaIamander with regard to a number of subjects. To save space I will usually refer to it simply as Tracking.
The Salt Lake County Attorney's Office terminated the discussions with Mark Hofmann when Mr. Hofmann refused to talk if Detective Jim Bell was going to be present. Hofmann's reluctance to talk to Detective Bell could have stemmed from the fact that he had a very unpleasant encounter with Bell after he was injured by the third bomb. The Deseret News for April 17,1986, revealed:
"Bell then asked him if he had set the bombs. 'He said he didn't do it,' Bell said. The detective then told Hofmann he was fairly confident he (Hofmann) had set the bombs because they had found Hofmann's green jacket.
" 'That set off the medical alarms,' said Bell, and he was ordered by hospital personnel to leave the trauma care unit where Hofmann was being cared for."
It is also possible that Mr. Hofmann believed that Detective Bell had such a vast knowledge of the bombings that he would not feel comfortable with him in the room. In any case, the prosecutor's summary of the confession Hofmann gave them before the plea bargain was finalized substantiates in almost every instance the testimony given at Mr. Hofmann's preliminary hearing which is presented in chapter 2 of Tracking. In that chapter it was demonstrated that Hofmann was in a desperate financial condition just before the murders and that Steven Christensen, one of Hofmann's victims, had come to feel that Hofmann was a "crook" and was threatening him with jail and excommunication from the Mormon Church. This, of course, would have completely ruined his Mormon document business. In the same chapter of Tracking, under Hofmann's Aliases, the evidence clearly shows that Mark Hofmann used the alias "Mike Hansen" when ordering material used in his forgery operation. One "Mike Hansen" receipt even had Mark Hofmann's fingerprint on it. This same alias was found on receipts from Radio Shack for parts used to make the bombs. Detective Bell claimed that there were "a total of three" items seized from Hofmann's home that had the "Mike Hansen" alias on them. One receipt dated back to "1982." Although I did not feel free to reveal it before the trial, I was aware that Allen Roberts (the co-author of a forthcoming book on Hofmann) had discovered that Mark Hofmann had also used the "Mike Hansen" alias at the University of Utah Library two or three years earlier. In his confession, Hofmann admits that he had used the alias at the University of Utah, Brigham Young University, Utah State University and the Mormon Church Archives. He said that he also used it at engraving companies and in purchasing parts for the bombs. In chapter 2 under Hofmann's Aliases, I stated that Mark Hofmann used the name "Bill Edwards" to buy additional bomb parts in Logan, Utah, and that a scholar had seen him in Logan the very day he purchased the parts. The last part of this statement can not be confirmed. It was actually on October 16, the day after the first two bombs exploded, that Hofmann was in Logan. In his confession, however, Mark Hofmann admitted he did, in fact, purchase the bomb parts in Logan under the alias "Bill Edwards."
In chapter 2 of Tracking, under Machine Gun and Bombs, I quoted Detective Jim Bell as saying Mark Hofmann told him that he had been driving in Emigration Canyon on October 16 and that investigators at one time felt Hofmann had actually assembled his bombs in that canyon. In his confession, Mr. Hofmann said that he made the first two bombs at his home and that he assembled the third bomb in Logan Canyon. Also in Machine Gun and Bombs, I related that Mark Hofmann and Shannon Flynn had picked up a book entitled Anarchists' Cookbook at a local bookstore shortly before the bombings. This book told how to make bombs. In his confession, Mr. Hofmann admits that he looked through it but claims that he used other books to create the bombs he used on October 15th and 16th, 1987.
In chapter 2 of Tracking, under Other Evidence, I told of the evidence showing that Hofmann wore his "Kelly green high school letter jacket" when he went up to Steven Christensen's office to plant the bomb, and on the same page related that Bruce Passey identified Hofmann as the man who rode in the elevator with him and that Passey had noticed that Hofmann was carrying a package addressed to "Steve Christensen." Hofmann confirms all this in his confession. Another important witness for the prosecution at the preliminary hearing was Aaron Teplick who identified Mr. Hofmann's gold Toyota "wonder wagon" as driving slowly by the Sheets' residence late at night before the bombings. In his confession, Hofmann admitted that Teplick was a good witness, although he disagreed with him regarding the time of night he was there.
At this point the reader will find the prosecutor's summary of what they learned about the bombings from Mark Hofmann himself before the plea agreement was finalized:
"The following information concerning the bombings of October 15 and 16 of 1985 and the forged Salamander Letter' was obtained from Mark Hofmann in interviews conducted by prosecutors on January 7, 8, and 22, 1987 at the residence of Ronald Yengich in Salt Lake City, Utah. Those present were Mark Hofmann; Ronald Yengich, Hofmann's Attorney; and Deputy Salt Lake County Attorneys Robert Stott and David Biggs. During the interviews the prosecutors took notes of Mr. Hofmann's statements.
"Mark Hofmann gave the following background information: When he was about 12 years old, he received the scar under his right chin as a result of a chemical experiment. He and a cousin, Mike, had placed wood alcohol in a closed beaker. It exploded, causing a burn on his chin, which required a skin graft.
"Around the same time there was an incident in which he and a friend, Brian, made a black powder incendiary device which was put into a sterno can. A fuse of black powder was placed in the can and he gave it to Brian to explode at the school yard near his home on Connor Street. Brian took the cap off to ignite it but it didn't explode. Obviously, said Hofmann, it didn't explode because it wasn't under pressure before it was ignited.
"Hofmann said he was extremely knowledgeable in the manufacture of black gunpowder. He had been making black gunpowder since he had been in elementary school. He had obtained the formula and percentage make-up of black gunpowder in the World Book Encyclopedia. He and Mike made black powder out of sulfur, saltpeter and charcoal. The saltpeter was some type of potassium nitrate. He never owned a chemistry set although his older sister had one. He liked to use more sophisticated, detailed equipment which he purchased at Mill Creek Pharmacy. He bought the brand name 'Perfect Chemicals.' Another incident occurred with another friend, Ted. They made black powder, went over to a park and detonated it. He remembered when he and Mike made a sort of cannon out of pipe along with a kind of a extension cord ignition system. They shot rocks out of this pipe and knocked leaves off the trees. He blew up a bottle with dry ice. He enjoyed firecrackers and cherry bombs. He thought that they were fun, and he even purchased cherry bombs, one for a dollar each. He said that he knew that was expensive but he enjoyed it.
"A few months before the October bombings, Hofmann asked Shannon Flynn, a friend, to obtain some blasting caps for him. Hofmann wanted to make a bomb out of nitrate fertilizer and diesel oil. He needed the blasting caps as a concussion device to detonate the mixture. Flynn gave him two fuse blasting caps which he had obtained from a source in Richfield, Utah. Hofmann threw them away sometime before October, 1985 because he knew that people might be checking or searching his home and he didn't want the caps lying around.
"Hofmann didn't remember for sure, but thought that he might have purchased some books on bombs at a gun show that he and Flynn had attended. The idea for the nails packed around the Christensen bomb came from one of the books. Its purpose was to increase the possibility of death. He did remember thumbing through the 'Anarchist Cook Book,' which was purchased by Shannon Flynn. He said his bombs of October were very simple compared to those in the 'Anarchist Cook Book.'
"Mark Hofmann then related the following information about the bombings of October 15 and 16, 1985: He knew he was going to make two bombs to kill two people, but at first he wasn't sure who the victims would be. He thought of several scenarios for the bombings. First he thought that one of the bombs would kill either Thomas Wilding or Brent Ashworth and the second bomb would kill himself. Then he thought that possibly the bombs should be for Steve Christensen and Thomas Wilding, and finally he thought about killing Thomas Wilding and Brent Ashworth with the two bombs. Hofmann stated that it wasn't until the morning of the 15th of October when he made the bombs that he settled on the actual targets.
"On October 5th he made two trips to the Radio Shack at the Cottonwood Mall. On the first trip, he purchased a mercury switch and a D size battery pack. He went to the Radio Shack at 30th East and 33rd South to look at the mercury switches there, since he was intending to make two bombs. He turned the mercury switch back and forth and saw that it was defective. The mercury stayed connected to the prong, and thus, the switch would not be suitable for his purpose because the bomb would have been detonated immediately upon connection of the mercury switch. He returned to the Radio Shack at the Cottonwood Mall and purchased another mercury switch, C size battery packs, and a circuit tester. With each visit to Radio Shack, he used the name Mike Hansen. Hofmann thought that he had used the alias 'Mike Hansen' as early as 1978. At first it was a game, his way of playing detective. He used the alias in 1979 at the University of Utah Special Collections Library. He also used it at the LDS Church Archives, the Utah State University Archives Special Collections, and the New York Public Library. He bought a tire from David Early Tire using the alias Mike Hansen. His only explanation was that he must have felt like being secretive that day. He used the alias in Denver and in Kansas City. In Utah he used it at DeBouzek, Utah Engraving, Salt Lake Stamp, and at BYU. Hofmann said that the police searches of my home weren't very good, they left the plates. The plates he made reference to were for the counterfeit Deseret Currency, postmarks, and other items which he would not detail. They were located in a sack in the workroom closet on a shelf. The police failed to seize the items and he later destroyed them when he was released on bail.
"On the same date, October 5, 1985, he purchased the Estes Rocket Igniters and batteries from Hammonds on 7200 South. He also bought tannic acid at Hammonds, but refused to explain why. On this same day, Hofmann also purchased the pipe used in the bombs from Holiday Hardware and Lumber Store located across the street from Cottonwood Mall. He requested 2 pieces of one inch diameter pipe in twelve inch lengths. The pipes were cut and threaded for him at the store. Like all of his purchases on this date he paid cash. He also bought at the Holiday Lumber Yard a pair of leather gloves, a pair of painting gloves (rubber), and a magic marker to address the packages the bombs were to be placed into.
"The end pipe caps, nails, and gunpowder were purchased at Allied located at 6200 South State on the same day. He knew that he shouldn't purchase them all at the same time so he first bought two cans of Hercules Bulls-eye gunpowder. He carried the powder to his car, the Toyota MR2, and then returned to the store and purchased the end pipes and nails. He used different cashiers at Allied's; one for the gunpowder and another for the end pipes and cement nails (the nails were wrapped around the Christensen bomb). He made his final purchase of the day at Mail Box U.S.A. on 3300 South, Salt Lake City. He bought tape and two 12x12x6 inch boxes that would house the bombs.
"After purchasing the bomb components, Hofmann returned home and placed the materials on a blanket in his downstairs den. This was the same room in which he performed his forgery work. The door was locked and no one was allowed into that room. However one night, just before he prepared the bombs, Shannon Flynn wanted to inspect the house because he wanted to purchase it. Hofmann threw the blanket over the parts; Flynn walked into the room, walked around, and walked out.
"On October 10, 1985, Hofmann went to an area off of I-80 near Grantsville to test fire the bomb components. This is when he received a speeding ticket in his MR2. He wasn't able to perform the test because there was too much snow and mud. The next day, October 11, he returned to test once more. Into a 1/2 inch pipe, which he found in his garage, he placed gunpowder and a rocket igniter. He connected the wire of the rocket igniter to a 50 foot extension cord, walked back to a small gully, and connected the extension cord to a battery pack. The bomb exploded. He then knew if he were to make a bomb of twice that size he would be able to kill someone with it. He threw the extension cord into a salt water drying pool. At first he thought it might still be out there, but on second thought, he didn't know if there would be much left because of the coercive nature of the salt. At this particular time when he was testing in the desert on October 11, 1985, he felt that it was still going to be Thomas Wilding. Hofmann said he wanted to kill him.
"On the evening hours of October 14, Hofmann and Shannon Flynn went to Max Anderson's home to talk about polygamy. Afterwards he dropped Shannon Flynn off at his home at Quailbrook Condominiums. When he got home Doralee, his wife, was still up. It was approximately 11:30 p. m. He visited with his wife for a little while and then she went to bed. He went into his downstairs room and constructed the bombs. He drilled the holes into the pipes in the garage and carefully picked up all of the filings from the garage. It didn't take long, probably 2 hours or less to construct the two bombs. Several times Hofmann stated that the bombs were simple devices. They were not as complex as the ones depicted in the 'Anarchist Cook Book.' Hofmann made a safety device for each bomb. He said he wouldn't have carried the bombs without it. He made small holes in the boxes with an ice pick. He threaded the wires from the pipe bombs through the holes and taped them separately onto the outside of the box. When he delivered the bombs, he took the tape off the wires and connected them. Then, if the packages were tipped, the mercury in the switch would complete the circuit and the bombs would explode. He said that at the preliminary hearing he examined some of the remnants of the boxes that had been introduced into evidence and found one of these small holes.
"He finished the assembling of the bomb packages by writing the names Steve Christensen and Gary Sheets on the packages. He didn't know Sheets address so he looked it up in the phone directory. He underlined Sheets' address in the directory with the same magic marker that he used to write the names on the boxes. When he was released from jail on bail, he destroyed the directory. The bombs were finished by 2:00 a.m. the morning of October 15, 1985. He said he constructed the bombs at night because that was when he did his best work, his forgeries.
"Hofmann stated that it was while constructing the bombs that he finally decided for whom the bombs were intended. He said he wasn't rational at the time, but decided that Steve Christensen would have to be killed so that the McLellin transaction would not take place. He believed Steve Christensen was an honorable man, but close-mouthed. From some cryptic remarks that Steve had made, Hofmann knew that CFS and Gary Sheets were in trouble. CFS was going under and Sheets might be liable for some legal troubles. Hofmann said Gary Sheets was probably correct when he told the police he didn't remember meeting Mark Hofmann because he, Hofmann, hadn't remembered meeting Sheets. The meeting was not very memorable for either. The second bomb, with the name Gary Sheets on it, was simply a diversion so that everyone would believe the bombings were the result of CFS business problems.
"Hofmann said the thing that attracted him to bombs as a means of killing was that he didn't have to be there at the time of the killings. He didn't think he could pull the trigger on someone if he faced them, but he could do it if he didn't have to be around. He said he only filled the Sheets pipe bomb half full of powder, and he didn't think the rocket igniter would work because it was three-fourths chipped away. He said that it didn't matter to him if the Sheets' bomb went off or not because its purpose was to establish a diversion. For this purpose, the death of someone was not necessary. He realized, of course, that a bomb left at the residence could kill or severely injure someone, but it didn't really matter to him.
"Upon completion of the bomb and packages Hofmann cleared up the area and put the following left-over items into two bags: a full can of Bulls-eye powder, battery packs, the old blanket he used as his work area, the 'marks-a-lot' pen he used to address the packages, the drill bits used to make holes in the pipe, his soldering iron, solder, rags used to wipe off the grease from the threaded ends of the pipes, tape, and unused rocket igniters. Later that morning these two bags and their contents were dropped off by Hofmann into a dumpster at an apartment complex near 2100 East and 3300 South. The other was dumped into a dumpster at the apartments where Shannon Flynn lived, the Quailbrook Apartments.
"Sometime after 2:45 a.m., Hofmann placed the two bombs and two bags into his van and left for the Sheets' residence. Hofmann thought that Aaron Teplick was a good witness at the preliminary hearing but that he was wrong about the time Hofmann drove by the Sheets' home. According to Hofmann, the time was 3:00 a.m. rather than midnight. After driving by the Sheets home, he went back up, parked, walked to the garage, and placed the bomb package upright in front of the garage door closest to the front door. He then connected the two wires which had been taped to the box. The bomb would now go off if the package was tipped. He had tested the mercury switch with the light tester and knew that if the box was tipped at a 90 angle or knocked over, it would explode. He placed the bomb about five feet from the garage door thinking that a car leaving the area would hit it. He couldn't understand why a car hadn't hit the package and detonated it before Kathryn Sheets later found it.
"Hofmann returned to his house around 3:30 a.m. While he was still downstairs his daughter awoke. His wife, who was upstairs, asked him to take care of the little girl, which he did until she went back to sleep awhile later.
"Sometime between 6:00 and 6:30 a.m. that morning he went to the Judge Building to deliver the second bomb. He parked the van in front of the building on the south side of 3rd South. He first went into the building and up the the sixth floor without the bomb package to see the 'lay of the land.' He returned to the building with the bomb. He got into the elevator with Hal Passey and Hal's father. He said a fourth person, a rather attractive woman, was also in the elevator. He pressed the button for the fifth floor. By the time the elevator arrived at that floor, all the others [sic] passengers had exited on lower floors. He then pressed the sixth floor button and left the elevator on that floor. He walked directly to Steve Christensen's office and placed the bomb package inside the door jam. He fastened the wires together and returned to the street level by way of the elevator. He didn't see anyone on the sixth floor and didn't think anyone saw him there.
"To eliminate fingerprints, he wore gloves while delivering both bombs. In front of the Judge Building he took off the gloves and threw them into a trash can. He did this he said to test fate. To explain why the gloves were not found by the police when they searched that trash can later, he thought that maybe a bag lady or two bums he had seen in the area had picked them up.
"That morning as he delivered each of the bombs he wore tan pants, a stripped shirt, black shoes, a green high school jacket with tan sleeves, glasses, and gloves. He had not shaved, but wore no mustache. He said he wore his jacket and used the name Mike Hansen to leave little clues. He was kind of hoping to get caught and thought if they could catch him, they should.
"From the Judge Building, Hofmann returned to his house as the clock was chiming 7:00 a.m. Around 8:30 a.m. he called the Sheets' home number, but no one answered. He said if someone answered he would have disguised his voice and told them that there was a bomb in their driveway and not to touch it. He said he was already regretting the Christensen bomb and was considering calling Christensen. He called Christensen's office. The answering machine responded and Hofmann hung up without leaving a message.
"Hofmann speculated that his wife, Doralee, had passed the polygraph test as to his alibi because when she had awakened at 3:00 and 7:00 a.m., he was home. Also, his young son had told her that his dad had been downstairs all the time. He said she had no idea that he had left the house that night.
"Hofmann said that he was very good at masking his emotions. As an example, he said that in the afternoon of the 15th he went to Dallin Oaks' office to see if the McLellin transaction was to proceed. He said that even though Oaks talked and observed him, he fooled Oaks, and Oaks never suspected he was involved in the bombings. He also spoke with Hugh Pinnock in the basement parking lot and fooled him too.
"Hofmann said the third bomb, the one on October 16, 1985 that exploded in his car, was a suicide attempt. He said he was distraught over the killings the day before. He thought that he deserved death, and it would be the best thing for his family. He also admitted that he had placed a number of inconsequential papers in the car so that people would think that the McLellin Collection, which did not exist, was blown up in the explosion and fire.
"On the 16th of October, Hofmann went to Logan to purchase the bomb parts for the third bomb. Hofmann used the name Bill Edwards at Radio Shack in Logan. Hofmann bought several items, but the only ones that he could specifically remember were the battery pack and the wires. The batteries came from K-Mart. The rocket engine igniter and gloves had already been purchased. He bought a three-inch elbow to confuse the people from whom he was purchasing the pipe so that they wouldn't get suspicious about someone buying two end caps and a length of pipe. Hofmann then went up into Logan Canyon and prepared the bomb. He wanted a quick and clean death, so he made the pipe sixteen inches long. It was substantially larger than the ones that killed Kathryn Sheets and Steve Christensen. He then drove down to Salt Lake, parked in his normal spot across from the Deseret Gym, and walked in to get a drink of water to bolster his courage. He went back to the car. The bomb was in a paper sack on the passenger seat. He put it on the driver's seat, touched the two wires together, and the bomb exploded.
"Mark Hofmann began the interview regarding the 'Salamander Letter' by stating that it was a forgery. To write it he researched the matter thoroughly and relied extensively upon Mormonism Unveiled [sic] and the Joseph Knight affidavit. Hofmann had read books on magic at the University of Utah Library and had also had discussions with Brent Metcalfe about magic. He composed the letter in about two hours when he was visiting the Church Historical Library. He called Lynn Jacobs in Boston and read the draft to him. He stole the paper from the Niles Register, a series of books printed in the 1830's, located at the University of Utah Special Collection Library. The handwriting style of the letter was copied basically from the available Martin Harris signature, the samples of letters and styles from that era, and the common style and standards that were employed at that time. He attempted to keep the handwriting of the letter consistent with the handwriting of the known Martin Harris signature. Hofmann researched the mail schedules from and to Palmyra and the surrounding areas and knew what post office date and mark to affix. He knew that prior to 1829 the Palmyra postmark was black and afterwards it was red. The beginning of the letter, 'I received your letter today and hasten to respond' was from words he had seen in actual letters from that era and place; therefore he was sure the time sequence was proper.
"Hofmann said he created what he believed actual history to be. He believed Joseph Smith was involved in magic. The early writings of Joseph Smith didn't characterize his experience as a first vision but as a dream. Hofmann was aware that salamanders or toads are commonly associated with magic literature. He said his salamander letter was a magic forgery.
"Mark Hofmann said that paper from the Niles Register at the University of Utah was also used for the Josiah Stowell 1830 [sic] letter, the Lucy Mack Smith letter and other forgeries. The postmark on the Lucy Mack Smith letter was from a plate he created himself from a photograph of an original postmark, probably one from Courtland Covers. He did most of the printing himself from plates he made. He did his own photography, chemical work, etching, and printing. He said that people would be surprised at how much he did to insure that the Oath of a Freeman would pass the forensic tests, but that he got lazy and he had the Oath plate made professionally. Hofmann said that he obviously should have made the Oath plate himself.
"The poem appearing in the Book of Common Prayer, supposedly written in Martin Harris' handwriting, was another Mark Hofmann creation. It was a forgery. The Josiah Stowell letter was forged before the Salamander Letter. As far as Hofmann knew, there was and is no Oliver Cowdery History. He told Brent Metcalf that it existed because it excited Brent. The Bible in which he claimed the Anthon Transcript was found was purchased by Hofmann while he was in Bristol, England on his mission. He bought it from an upstairs book store located near the 49th Street Stairs. At one time he told his wife that the Anthon Transcript was a fake, but because it so greatly affected her, he later told her he was only joking and that it was genuine. Although she probably felt or suspected that many of his items were forgeries, she still thought that the Oath of a Freeman and the Salamander Letter were authentic.
"Hofmann said that many years ago he had sold a forged Daniel Boone letter to Kenneth Rendell. He also had sold over $500,000.00 worth of forgeries to Charles Hamilton whom he said never suspected a thing. Hofmann had prior experience with forensic scientist [sic] and knew that he could get his forgeries past the scrutiny of any expert or test available." (Hofmann's Confession, pages SS-1 through SS-14)
In the interviews after the plea agreement was completed, Mark Hofmann did make some comments concerning the murders:
Q. Was there any connection in your mind between the vote by the American Antiquarian Society on October 15, 1985 and the bombs going off on October 15, 1985?
A. Was there any connection?
A. Yes. The connection was the money factor. I was obviously very desperate for money at this point and so that is the connection....
Q. ... Hypothetically if the American Antiquarian Society had been able to and did vote to purchase your Oath on October 15, 1985 for about a million dollars, what would that have done to the financial hole that you dug yourself into by that time?
A. It would have relieved me from it. Hence, I guess you want me to say the bombings would not have taken place.
Q. I don't want you to say that unless it is true.
A. I'll say it since it's true.
(Hofmann's Confession, pages 279-280)
A. ... This all took place shortly before the bombings and I wasn't thinking very clearly at the time. (Ibid., page 332)
A. I hope you are not going to leave me without going into my rationalization further because I can do a lot better job as far as how I rationalized myself.
Q. If you have something more to add, whatever.
A. No. We'll talk about it later. A lot of it deals with my rationalization for the homicides which we'll get into. (Ibid., page 411)
Q. Now at that time you had bought some bomb parts?
A. Let's see, when did I buy the bomb parts? I don't remember the exact
MR. BIGGS: On the 7th, or 5th?
A. Yes, well again this gets into rationalization for the bombs. All along, of course, until the evening that I made them, I didn't really think that I would end up using them. At least to take a life.
MR. BIGGS: Why is that?
A. My rationalization was that I would prepare myself or have that at my disposal but that things would work out. Now, remember, I think we went in to this before, that my thinking was at that time that my life would be taken. In other words, that it would be a suicide attempt. Although, like I say, it was half a joke. Well, joke is not a good word, but it was more thinking that I have the parts, more of a way out, than actually saying to myself when I purchased the parts, this is what I'm going to use them for, these are the people I'm going to take out. None of that was in my mind at that time. As far as the idea of Mrs. Sheets, it hadn't even entered my mind yet. Who was going to be taken out with me was up in the air, if anyone was to be.
MR. STOTT: So were you casing Brent's place out with the idea of him being a victim?
A. Not at all. Although again, I know that is what he thinks. I had nothing to case out. I knew where his house was, I knew where his porch was or where I would leave it if I was going to leave it there. I don't know if you're satisfied or not. There wasn't any reason to case out his joint. (Ibid., pages 424-425)
According to an article by Dawn Tracy, Mark Hofmann may have been thinking of murder at least five months prior to the killings:
"And a longtime boyhood friend has told The Tribune that Hofmann discussed ways of killing people with him five months before the bombing deaths...
"The friend said the two talked about circumstances that would induce someone to kill.... Hofmann and his friend then discussed different ways of killing; using a shotgun because Hofmann believed it would be impossible to trace, or planting bombs, according to the friend." (Salt Lake Tribune, March 21, 1987)
It now appears that anyone who posed a threat to Mr. Hofmann's Mormon document empire may have been in danger of being put to death. Since we had been publishing material which was very critical of Hofmann's "discoveries" for nineteen months prior to the bombings and publicly calling for people to tell us anything they might know about his dealings, we feel very fortunate to be alive. We had two face to face confrontations with Mr. Hofmann regarding his documents. The first was on August 22, 1984, when he came to our home and talked with Sandra. He seemed very distressed and hurt that we, of all people, would question his discoveries. He had expected that opposition might come from those in the church, but he was shocked that Utah Lighthouse Ministry had taken a position which was critical of his documents. Mr. Hofmann appeared to be almost to the point of tears as he pled his case as to why we should trust him.
In the year that followed we continued to publish material that was critical of Hofmann's discoveries, and finally on August 24, 1985, we confronted him at the Sunstone Symposium. At that time we questioned him closely with regard to the origin of the Salamander letter. Unfortunately, his answers did not seem to square with the facts we already knew and it must have become obvious to him that we did not believe what he was saying. At one point, he had a very sad and worried expression on his face. He seemed deeply troubled. It was almost as if he were trying to say, "Please believe what I am telling you." Although Mr. Hofmann did not outwardly show any hostility, this was a very tense and unpleasant experience for all of us. We knew, of course, that whenever someone attempts to uncover fraud there is some danger of retaliation, but we never thought of Mark Hofmann as being a violent man. After the murders we felt very thankful that Mr. Hofmann was not triggered by the exposes we published concerning his document deals. We were very fortunate that Mr. Hofmann arrived at our house armed only with arguments as to why we should trust his documents rather than a pipe bomb surrounded with nails. While we have always thought there was a possibility of being assassinated by someone opposed to our work, we never even considered that a well-mannered man like Mark Hofmann, who professed to be friendly to our work, would turn out to be a cold-blooded killer who would stop at nothing to shut the mouths of his opponents.
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