Cult leader sentenced to life in prison

Sacramento Bee, April 18, 2000

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- The leader of a fringe religious group has been sentenced to 89 years to life in prison for a string of robberies and other crimes. Christopher Turgeon sang the national anthem in San Diego Superior Court on Monday before he was sentenced by Judge Michael Wellington. He then condemned the United States for what he called the nation's wickedness and predicted its destruction.

Turgeon, 36, was convicted last month of 17 charges including conspiracy to kill a police officer, attempted murder of a police officer and robbery. He and a fellow cult member still face murder charges in a March 1998 slaying in Everett, Wash.

Turgeon, who has testified that he considers himself the prophet Elijah, led a small group called the Gatekeepers based in Pala, 40 miles north of San Diego.

In July 1998, Turgeon and a fellow cult member, Blaine Applin, led police on a chase following the robbery of a San Diego lingerie store. Applin was accused of firing at the police car while Turgeon drove.

The March 1998 murder charge in Washington involved the shooting death of Daniel Jess, 40, a part-time tree cutter and reportedly a former member of the Gatekeepers, which formerly was based in Washington.

Applin already has been sentenced to 101 years to life in prison.

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