Jury finds fringe cult leader was sane during robbery

Sacramento Bee, March 29, 2000

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- The leader of a fringe religious group was sane when he and a friend went on a robbery spree in 1998 and fired at a San Diego police officer as they attempted to flee, a jury decided.

Christopher Turgeon, who testified during his trial last week that he considers himself the prophet Elijah, was convicted earlier this month of 17 charges including conspiracy to kill a police officer, attempted murder of a police officer and robbery.

At the sanity phase of his trial Monday, Turgeon asked the judge to sentence him immediately.

"Why don't you just give me the maximum and be done with it. I'd be happy with that," Turgeon told San Diego Superior Court Judge Michael Wellington. Turgeon faces a maximum sentence of 80 years to life in prison when he is sentenced on April 17.

Turgeon and fellow cult member Blaine Applin robbed a San Diego lingerie store in July 1998. As they were being chased by police, Applin allegedly fired at the officers while Turgeon drove, police said.

Authorities believe Applin and Turgeon also are responsible for a robbery in Riverside County and the March 1998, Seattle-area slaying of a former member of their group, the Gatekeepers. The group recently moved from Washington to California.

Applin already has been sentenced to 101 years to life in prison. Both men still face murder charges in Washington.

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