Cult murder case before jury

EVERETT - A Snohomish County jury began deliberations yesterday in the murder trials of a man who led a small religious cult and of a former member of the group.

Defense lawyers argued that Chris Turgeon, the charismatic force behind the Gatekeepers, and Blaine Applin were not guilty by reason of insanity in the March 1998 killing of Dan Jess, who had been a member of the group.

Prosecutors filed charges against the two in October 1998, accusing them of killing the 40-year-old tree-cutter because he knew they had bilked money from local businesses and clients before moving to Southern California.

Jess had spoken to Turgeon about the alleged frauds, and after the conversation, Turgeon told one follower that "God's calling us to destroy the enemy," court papers say. Then Applin said God told him to shoot Jess, charging papers said.

Jess was shot six times at his Mountlake Terrace home.