Episode 340:

Catfish Your Friends

The Murder of Milly Dowler


The Story of Ervil LeBaron, the “Mormon Manson”


Episode 340: Catfish Your Friends

On today’s episode, Karen covers the murder of Milly Dowler and Georgia tells the story of Ervil LeBaron, the “Mormon Manson.”

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The Murder of Milly Dowler

The Murder of Milly Dowler Notes:

Header Image Source: Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

Other Image: Amanda Jane "Milly" Dowler (via Wikipedia)


"The News of the World illegally targeted the missing schoolgirl Milly Dowler and her family in March 2002, interfering with police inquiries into her disappearance, an investigation by the Guardian has established.

Scotland Yard is investigating the episode, which is likely to put new pressure on the then editor of the paper, Rebekah Brooks, now Rupert Murdoch’s chief executive in the UK; and the then deputy editor, Andy Coulson, who resigned in January as the prime minister’s media adviser.

The Dowlers’ family lawyer, Mark Lewis, this afternoon issued a statement describing the News of the World’s activities as “heinous” and “despicable”. He said this afternoon the Dowler family was now pursuing a damages claim against the News of the World.

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Milly Dowler disappeared at the age of 13 on her way home in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, on 21 March 2002.

Detectives from Scotland Yard’s new inquiry into the phone hacking, Operation Weeting, are believed to have found evidence of the targeting of the Dowlers in a collection of 11,000 pages of notes kept by Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator jailed for phone hacking on behalf of the News of the World.

In the last four weeks the Met officers have approached Surrey police and taken formal statements from some of those involved in the original inquiry, who were concerned about how News of the World journalists intercepted – and deleted – the voicemail messages of Milly Dowler.

The messages were deleted by journalists in the first few days after Milly’s disappearance in order to free up space for more messages. As a result friends and relatives of Milly concluded wrongly that she might still be alive. Police feared evidence may have been destroyed.

The Guardian investigation has shown that, within a very short time of Milly vanishing, News of the World journalists reacted by engaging in what was standard practice in their newsroom: they hired private investigators to get them a story.

Their first step was simple, albeit illegal. Paperwork seen by the Guardian reveals that they paid a Hampshire private investigator, Steve Whittamore, to obtain home addresses and, where necessary, ex-directory phone numbers for any families called Dowler in the Walton area. The three addresses Whittamore found could be obtained lawfully on the electoral register. The two ex-directory numbers, however, were “blagged” illegally from British Telecom’s confidential records by one of Whittamore’s associates, John Gunning, who works from a base in Wiltshire. One of the ex-directory numbers was attributed by Whittamore to Milly’s family home.

Then, with the help of its own full-time private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire, the News of the World started illegally intercepting mobile phone messages. Scotland Yard is now investigating evidence that the paper hacked directly into the voicemail of the missing girl’s own phone. As her friends and parents called and left messages imploring Milly to get in touch with them, the News of the World was listening and recording their every private word..."

— Source: The Guardian article by Nick Davies and Amelia Hill


The Story of Ervil LeBaron, the “Mormon Manson”

The Story of Ervil LeBaron, the “Mormon Manson” Notes:

Header Image Source: Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Other Images: 

Ervil LeBaron (via Geneanet)

Ervil LeBaron & family members (via Wikipedia)


"Ervil LeBaron listened carefully when God told him to take many wives. He married 13. When God told him to have children, he had at least 50.

And, 20 years ago, when God told him to break away from his family’s polygamist sect, he founded his own church, tearing apart the once close-knit family.

That’s apparently when God told Ervil to start killing people, too, including his own kin.

Authorities say it was the start of a chilling family tradition that continues to reverberate today among his descendants and followers more than a decade after his death.

The bizarre saga of Ervil’s secretive cult--which also attracted a handful of non-family followers--stretches back to the Nixon era and follows a blood-spattered trail that zigzags through Mexico and the Southwest like an addled snake.

By one expert’s estimate, the group has committed 25 to 30 murders in Utah, California, Texas, Colorado and Mexico. Investigators can only guess at the total number of slayings because the bodies of some of the presumed victims have never been found. West of here, in Tooele County, for instance, a man disappeared some 16 years ago after reportedly coming into contact with the cult. Authorities were never able to determine his fate.

When the LeBarons were at the peak of their infamy more than a decade ago, self-styled redeemer Ervil and his sullen brood were media staples. In the search for superlatives, one news magazine tagged Ervil “The Mormon Manson.” His influence was so powerful, authorities say, that a shrinking band of wives, children and hangers-on continued to commit crimes in his name even after 1981, when he died at age 56 in a Utah prison.

Yet, as the years rolled by, the LeBaron story pretty much faded, thanks largely to Ervil’s permanent absence. Until last month, that is, when the murders of four more people were officially pinned to a last fanatic core of “Ervilistas.” On Aug. 24, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Houston announced federal indictments against six members of the cult.

Now, many of the law enforcement authorities involved in the case believe this melodrama of the Modern West is almost over--more than two decades after an obscure religious feud between two brothers erupted into murder and sparked a killing frenzy..."

— Source: Los Angeles Times article by Garry Abrams

Karen's Episode Sources

  1. “My Sister Milly” by Gemma Dowler
  2. “Missing Milly Dowler's voicemail was hacked by News of the World” by Nick Davies and Amelia Hill 
  3. BBC article by Lauren Turner “Manhunt: The real-life story behind the ITV drama”
  4. BBC News “Milly Dowler death: The diversion which cost her life”
  5. Rueters, Reuters Staff, “Milly Dowler murder ‘every parent's worst nightmare’”
  6. The Guardian article by Caroline Davis and Karen mcVeigh “Milly Dowler family say Bellfield trial was 'mental torture'”
  7. The Guardian, Press Association, “Levi Bellfield defence was a charade driven by hatred, victim's family claims”
  8. Byline Investigates “Milly Dowler ‘hacking’ – now Mirror Group is accused over murdered schoolgirl in court docs”
  9. Reuters article by Michael Holden “UK police: Dowler phone hacked but deletions unclear”
  10. The Guardian article by Nick Davies “Police did not investigate hacked Milly Dowler message, court hears”
  11. Independent “Milly Dowler's dad was original suspect”
  12. The Guardian article by Karen McVeigh “'He treated women like dogs'”
  13. Sky News, article by David Mercer “'Manhunt' detective who caught Milly Dowler murderer Levi Bellfield reveals 'tricks' police used in 'battle' with serial killer”
  14. The Independent, article by Matt Blake “Vilified QC in Bellfield case 'just doing his job'”
  15. BBC News, “Levi Bellfield guilty of Milly Dowler murder”
  16. Surrey Live, “Levi Bellfield guilty of Milly Dowler murder”
  17. The Guardian, article by Caroline Davies “Milly Dowler 'lookalike' tells trial of encounter with stranger in red car”
  18. “Predator--The true story of Levi Bellfield, the man who murdered Milly Dowler, Marsha McDonnell and Amelie Delagrange” by John McShane
  19. The Guardian, article by Sandra Laville and Jessica Elgot “Milly Dowler's family speak of 'torment and pain' over killer's confession”
  20. The Guardian, article by Sandra Laville “Levi Bellfield admits Milly Dowler rape and murder for first time”
  21. The Guardian, article by Caroline Davies “Milly Dowler family: we paid too high a price”
  22. The Guardian, article by Caroline Davies “Milly Dowler's father tells court he was early murder suspect”

Georgia's Episode Sources

  1. Utah and Arizona Attorney Generals’ Offices, The Primer 
  2. BBC News article by Brian Wheeler “Anna LeBaron: How I escaped my father's murderous polygamous cult” 
  3. Los Angeles Times article by Garry Abrams “A Family’s Legacy of Death”
  4. Time, “A Deadly Messenger of God”
  5. Daily Beast article by Lewis Beale “The ‘Mormon Manson’ and His Family’s Mexican Massacre”
  6. Mel Magazine article by Zaron Burnett III “The Unholy War of Polygamist Cult Leader, Ervil Lebaron, aka ‘The Mormon Manson’”
  7. Oxygen article by Erik Hawkins “Polygamist Cult Leader Uses Wives And Followers To Start Bloody Sectarian War” 
  8. Crime Library article by Julia Scheeres “Killing for God”
  9. New York Times article, UPI, “Ervil Lebaron, Utah Polygamist, Is Found Dead In His Prison Cell”
  10. The Sun article by Zoe Shenton “My Polygamist Cult Leader Dad Masterminded Dozens Of Killings Including My Own Brother’s – But I’m Proud Of My Family”
  11. San Diego Reader article by Matt Potter “Clan Linked To Yesterday's Mexico Slayings Once Rocked San Diego”
  12. The Washington Post article by Miriam Berger “How Mexico Became Home To Communities Of Mormons”
  13. Deseret News, Associated Press, “LeBaron Gets 45-year Sentence”
  14. Deseret News, Associated Press, “Convictions In Cult Slayings Upheld”
  15. Wikipedia, “Ervil LeBaron”