SALT LAKE CITY — A new docuseries premiering next week has particular relevance for Utah. “Murder Among the Mormons” looks back 36 years at a story that includes true crime, a master forger and bomber, and murder in Salt Lake City.
Doug Wright, host of “The Movie Show” on KSL Newsradio spoke with filmmakers Tyler Measom, An Honest Liar (2014) and Biography: I Want My MTV (2019), and Jared Hess, Napoleon Dynamite (2004), Gentlemen Broncos (2009) and Nacho Libre (2006) to discuss their new Netflix documentary set for release March 3.
“Murder Among the Mormons” is a three-part true-crime documentary about the Mark Hofmann forgeries and his two Salt Lake City murders on Oct. 15, 1985.
Hofmann is serving a life sentence for the bombing murders of Steve Christensen and Kathy Sheets in 1985. The murders were tied to a coverup of the documents he had faked about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Widely regarded as one of the most accomplished forgers in history, Hofmann was injured when by accident a third bomb went off in his car the next day.
Background on bombings
“Maybe you two could take us back, give us a little thumbnail sketch,” Doug Wright said. “I’d like to talk about some of the interesting characters. I know many of them, and some of them take a very interesting evolution. So, first of all, maybe just between you and Tyler, if you could just give us the background?
“It’s surprising how many people, even though it is such a part of the Utah culture, this story, how many people really don’t know a great deal about it. These bombings, without giving too much away, were predominantly [about] Mormon-related documents,” Measom said.
“I can remember at first everybody was looking into financial dealings, and how things were funded rather than the documents themselves,” Doug recalled. “So, we were all just mystified. And then in this three-part series that you put together, when it starts to gel toward the documents, it becomes something. You know the old thing is — fiction is nowhere near as strange as the actual story, the actual facts. It’s remarkable.”
Utah connections to Hofmann
Hess pointed out there are so many people in Salt Lake City who have connections to Hofmann or the bombings.
He said his neighborhood LDS stake president said he was a paperboy at the time and delivered a newspaper to the Sheets’ house on the morning Kathy Sheets was killed.
“The FBI interrogated him and got a full detailed account of what he saw that morning,” Hess said. “I had no idea but it’s just here in the community. There were so many people that were directly impacted by it or connected to it in some way.
“It really was an important part of the storytelling, to be able to tell this from the perspective of the people that lived it and get their stories captured on screen for the documentary,” he said.
“I had an uncle at the time who was in the FBI,” Doug said, “and he didn’t actually have a hand on this [investigation]. He said this is one of the best forgers we have ever seen.”
Measom said Hofmann, at age 14, bought a nickel at a coin shop worth $10. He forged it so that it became worth $10,000.
“[Hofmann] sent it into the U.S. Treasury, and they verified it. Now, you’re a 14-year-old boy, and you’re playing around with the coin, and you get verified by the United States that your work is genuine. In Mark’s own words, he said, ‘If somebody says that it’s real, then it becomes real.’
“I think Mark had that ability to continue to deceive and continue to think that he could get away with it. I mean for years, decades even, he pulled the wool over multiple people’s eyes, and not just small-time collectors. The best authenticators in the nation, the LDS Church, FBI, Sotheby’s. So I think in some aspects, he thought he may have been a little bit untouchable,” Measom said.
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