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Remembering Shannon Flynn (Part 4 of 5)

As 2021 winds down, we’re looking back on the life of Shannon Flynn. Shannon earned a degree in history from the University of Utah. He relocated to Gilbert, Arizona where he and Robyn successfully ran a small business for nearly two decades.  He was a longtime member of the Mormon History Association and a published author.  After a three-year battle with lung cancer that eventually metastasized to his brain, Shannon Patrick Flynn passed away in his Gilbert, Arizona home on Thursday, October 28, 2021. He discusses his role with Mark Hofmann. Check out our conversation from 2016.  Please note, this conversation happened before his lung cancer diagnosis so his voice sounds normal.  The surgery on his lungs damaged a nerve to his vocal cord, so that is why he sounds so raspy in Murder Among the Mormons….

GT:  I understand that the book that I read[1] that you actually spent some time in jail.

Shannon:  That is correct.

GT:  What was that all about?

Shannon:  I was incredibly naïve, and maybe still am.  But I was incredibly naïve and unknowing and when those bombs went off especially the one with Mark, I knew him really well, better than almost anybody else did, so I thought I could be helpful.  I volunteered once or twice to go to the police station and tell what I knew and contribute some information

What I didn’t realize is the police were casting a very wide net on potential suspects and I got caught up in that net.  At one point the police in an interview told me they were going to search my house.  I said, “You’re going to find something there that’s illegal.  There’s an automatic weapon and it’s an illegal one that actually belongs to Mark but it’s in a storage unit of mine.”

I was at one point arrested for possession of an unregistered automatic firearm, that’s a federal crime under the tax code, strangely enough, and so then I spent three days in Salt Lake County Jail and then was able to get bail, and get out and then never went back.

In that process I acquired a defense attorney and I now, at the time I didn’t realize this, but he suggested strongly that I submit to a polygraph.  Now I know it’s because he wanted to know if I was telling the truth.  But it could have been helpful to have me excluded.  It didn’t exclude me for one second because the police, this was a huge deal, huge crime.  They were not coming up with lead-pipe cinch suspects very quickly, so they were just going to do what they had to do to find somebody.

That became a charge that I could be charged with though I was never charged with anything to do with the rest of it.  He suggested I do this polygraph and he knew about David Raskin, so he said, “Why don’t we do this?”  That will help exclude you so I said “Sure.”  We drove up to the University of Utah.  I sat there and was all rigged up.  It has six sensors going and all of that, $600.

GT:  You had to pay?

Shannon:  I paid.

GT:  Oh wow.

Shannon:  I paid, and I think in my attorney’s view, then he believed that I hadn’t had anything to do with it.  But like I said, the police didn’t.

GT:  The police didn’t care.

Shannon:  They didn’t care.

GT:  So the police still thought you had something to do with it?

Shannon:  Somebody, and they didn’t care who it was.

GT:  They wanted to hang somebody.

Shannon:  Oh they had to.  Lyn Jacobs was looked at carefully, I believe Brent Metcalfe was looked at somewhat.  Like I said they were casting that net as wide as they could get it.  It was still—because it all drove from the incredibility of the whole thing.  No one believed that any one person could do all of those forgeries and build those bombs, and kill those people, all of that stuff.  They just didn’t believe it.  Even if Mark did it, they didn’t believe that one person could do it.  There must be somebody else involved.

Of course they went through the normal police procedures.  They found confederates, friends, whoever, and they applied whatever pressure they could because that’s a normal investigative technique because often evidence of a crime is not really readily available. A lot of times people are convicted on witness or complicit testimony, so they were looking for somebody to say, “Oh yeah, he did it, and I was there!”  You know?

GT:  They put a lot of pressure on you.   Did they accuse you of being a co-conspirator or something?

Shannon:  They did a number of things that to this day I will never forgive them for.  Never!  This plays into a little bit why this was difficult to imagine.

Did you watch Murder Among the Mormons?  What are your thoughts?

[1] The book Salamander discusses many aspects of the Hofmann bombings and forgeries.  See http://amzn.to/2yt9OfN

Remembering Shannon Flynn (Part 4 of 5)
Shannon Flynn was arrested but cleared in the Mark Hofmann crimes.

Here are links to our full conversation.

088: Christmas Party Plea Deal

087: Mark’s Unusual Prison Visitors

086: Would Hofmann Kill Again?

085: Should Hofmann Ever Be Released from Prison?

084: Shannon Goes to Jail for Hofmann

083: Hofmann’s Last Bomb Blew the Lid off Mormon History

082: Hoffman’s Best Fake:  Fooling the Lie Detector Test

081: Mark’s Million-Dollar Con

080: “I Cheat People.  That’s What I do for a Living.”

079: Hofmann’s Teenage Forgeries

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Remembering Curt Bench (Part 3 of 5)

Curt Bench was one of the most beloved members of the Mormon history community.  As we look back at those we’ve lost in 2021, I wanted to share some highlights from my 2017 interview with Curt as we discussed the Mark Hofmann bombings.  Curt passed away on August 17, 2021.

Curt:  Well that night I had talked to the police and someone suggested that I have the—we live in the county and someone suggested that we have county sheriffs go out to my house and look for bombs, so I sent my family to my mother-in-law’s place so that our house would be vacant, and so I was there with two sheriff’s deputies and we were going through my house room by room, in the garage, in the yard.  There was actually kind of a lighter moment when I’m leading the way pushing doors open.

GT:  Gingerly.

Curt:  Gingerly.  There was something in black plastic by my front door that I didn’t remember what it was.  We’re all looking at it like, what’s that?  And I’m thinking, I don’t know.  It was big and wrapped in black plastic so I called my wife and she reminded me a neighbor had brought it over for me to look at.  It was some old thing they wanted.  So anyway, I’m pushing doors open and we’re walking through and shining lights and these guys are ready for action and I remember saying, ‘Hey I don’t get paid to do this.  You do this!”  So I made one of them get in front of me, going room to room.

GT:  You didn’t have a flak jacket on.

Curt:  Yeah exactly.  So yeah that was genuine, I guess you could say that was genuine fear of at least the possibility of what could happen, particularly I was worried about my family.

GT:  Especially in light of Kathy Sheets.

Curt:  Yeah exactly.

GT:  She was an unintended victim.

Curt:  Exactly.  Although we didn’t know why she died at the time.

Did you interact with Curt? What are your  memories? Check out our conversation….  Here are links to the full conversation with Curt.

Remembering Curt Bench (Part 3 of 5)
Curt Bench, owner of Benchmark Books.

042: Hofmann Bombings Effects on Mormon History

041: Should LDS Leaders have Detected Hofmann’s Fraud?

040: Curt Bench’s role in Hofmann Bombings Court Case

039: Bomb Day 2:  Other Targets? – Oct 16, 1985

038: Bomb Day 1:  2 Killed – October 15, 1985

037: White Salamander Letter & Other Forgeries

036: Bombs in Salt Lake: Introduction to Mark Hofmann

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Wordprint Studies (Part 5 of 6)

Wordprint or stylometry studies try to identify the author of a text. Studies have tried to prove ancient as well as modern authorship. What does Brian Hales think of these studies? Is there a gap in Book of Mormon authorship?

GT:  Well, I know there’s been a lot of wordprint studies trying to identify [a specific author.] There was the Stanford study that said, “Oh, see, Solomon Spalding was the real author.”  Whereas, then BYU guys used the same methodology, but they included a “none of the above,” and, I think, pretty much blew the Stanford guys out of the water on that. But it seems to me, and I don’t know how you feel about word print studies. There are a lot of BYU guys that say, “Well, there’s 30 authors. We can show there’s 30 different authors of the Book of Mormon.” Then, you have the Stanford guys who are like, “No, it’s Solomon Spalding.” Do you have any point of view on word print studies?

Brian:  Well, they call them stylometrics, and I only include four, mostly because as I’m reading those four authors, I can even detect some differences that a person making up the text would have to take into account. There are two studies that, as you said, are saying it was written by Joseph or by Spalding or by Rigdon. Then, there are studies by Church members that show different authors, and it couldn’t be Joseph. I don’t put a lot of stock into it. But again, I can tell a difference of how Nephi is writing in his books versus how Mormon is compiling in his sections.

GT: I will just say if this was something that was a valid science, I think the FBI would have done that for Mark Hofmann.

Brian:  (Chuckling) well, and maybe you know, but I heard. Who was it? Mark Hofmann had paid somebody $5,000 to try to break down the sentence structure of the Book of Mormon, and he’d made hundreds and hundreds of three by five cards that were catalogued. Who was that?

GT:  That was Brent Ashworth.

Brian:  Brent, and so you can see that just to try to imitate 116 pages of the Book of Mormon, the amount of work Mark Hofmann was going to go to, the best forger of this era. So, I think he’s showing us this wouldn’t have been easy to do in the first place, let alone try to imitate it in the second place, as Hofmann was maybe planning to do, because he could do Martin Harris’ handwriting. But, creating those actual sentences is a whole ‘nother ballgame, rather than just writing.

Check out our conversation….

Wordprint Studies (Part 5 of 6)
Is it possible to figure out the author of a text via wordprint studies?

Don’t miss our previous conversations with Brian!

575: What Skills Were Needed to Write Book of Mormon?

574: Automatic Writing/Bill Davis’s “Visions of Seer Stone”

573: Looking at Spaulding & Collaborator Theories

572: Reviewing Polygamy Criticisms