Jury to see confession of killing

The leader of a small religious cult that forecast an apocalyptic end to the United States will be confronted by his own words when he goes on trial late this month for first-degree murder in the March 1998 shooting death of a Mountlake Terrace man.

Christopher Turgeon, 37, on Tuesday signed an agreement with prosecutors that cleared the way for jurors to see a handwritten document he prepared a few months after the death of Dan Jess, describing the killing almost as if it was a military operation.

In the document, Turgeon wrote about leaving California and driving to Mountlake Terrace in late March 1998, accompanied by fellow cult member Blaine Alan Applin, 30.

"Our objective was to complete a hit on a government informer who was actively pursuing the destruction of our families and our organization," Turgeon wrote.

"This rat's name was Dan Jess. He had formerly been a soldier in our organization and had betrayed us."

The document goes on to describe how Applin repeatedly shot Jess, 40, during an ambush at the man's home.

As part of Tuesday's hearing, Applin also agreed to waive any objection to prosecutors using the document as evidence. He is scheduled to be tried for first-degree murder along with Turgeon.

Defense attorneys plan to argue the co-defendants are not guilty because they were insane at the time of the killing. They also hope to call a forensic psychologist who is an expert on cults to testify at trial.

Turgeon is the leader of the Gatekeepers cult, which had been based in Edmonds, Lynnwood, Everett and Lake Stevens before moving to Southern California in 1997.

It was while in California that Turgeon and Applin embarked on a crime spree that was supposed to hasten the apocalyptic downfall of the United States. The pair were convicted in California of 17 felonies, including conspiracy to murder a police officer. Applin received a minimum 101-year sentence. Turgeon got 89 years to life. He sang the national anthem at sentencing.

Jess was a former Gatekeepers member. Prosecutors allege that before the pair embarked on their California crime spree, Turgeon ordered Applin to kill Jess because he feared the man was going to betray the Gatekeepers, a group that he had previously called Ahabah Asah Prophetic Ministries.

At his California trial, Turgeon testified that he considers himself the prophet Elijah. He preached that under God's law, women were inferior to men and that a man must not submit to the authority of a woman.

Turgeon took the idea so far that he once refused to give a woman 911 emergency operator his name, informing her he was "not at peace" to do so, according to court documents.

Applin last year convinced a judge that his involvement in the Gatekeeper's cult provided him with religious grounds to object to being represented by a female public defender.

Turgeon's account of Jess' killing was prepared while he was in jail in San Diego awaiting trial and presented to another inmate, said his attorney, Royce Ferguson of Everett.

The document, which included a hand-drawn map of the killing scene, describes how Applin and Turgeon switched the license plates on their car before heading to Jess' home.

"We then did reconnaissance of the whole area, checking for obvious, and not obvious obstacles to our mission," Turgeon wrote.

"We made sure the target was at home and then we left the area temporarily and parked. We then formulated the exact details of how the job would be done. It was decided my partner would pull the hit while I did the lookout and provided backup and cover."

Turgeon wrote that he was armed with a MAK-90 military-style rifle, and Applin had a 9mm semiautomatic pistol. Both men wore dark clothing and ski masks, according to court papers.

Jess was fatally shot when Applin knocked on his door at 3 a.m.

Turgeon and Applin were suspected in Jess' killing, but they weren't charged until after they were arrested in California and forensic tests linked a 9mm handgun they had used in a robbery there to the shooting in Mountlake Terrace.