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Why Hofmann Killed his Best Friends (Part 5)

Mark Hofmann was a successful document dealer in the 1980s.  Why did he kill?  Document Examiner George Throckmorton gives his insights into the Hofmann case, and why Hofmann killed.  Mark forged the first printed work in America, Oath of a Freeman.  The sale of the document was supposed to fetch between $1-1.5 million, but the sale was going slowly.

George:  He makes a second Oath of a Freeman. He actually made a third, which he was trying to sell them in Brazil, but I don’t know how many people knew that. The second one he sells to somebody up in Idaho and I’m not going to describe him. I know it’d be interesting, but if I describe him, there might be a lot of people that know who it is. But there’s a fellow up in Idaho and he sells it to him for $100,000.

He gets $100,000 and then later on the person up in Idaho, he sees where they got the Oath of a Freeman back in New York. And they’re selling it and he says, “This isn’t an original that I purchased. Hofmann told me it was an original.” So, he called him on the phone, and he says, “So is this isn’t an original.”  He actually meets with him and says, “This is not an original document, is not worth $100,000. I want my money back.” Mark doesn’t have any money. And apparently an argument ensued or something.

And Mark gets physically assaulted. This was the first time in his life, we know of, that somebody actually physically assaulted him. Before he’s dealing with, what do they call him, Mr. Milk Toasts. You know, historians are generally laid back, calm person. I don’t know anybody other than a couple that hollered at me. But most of them I don’t think they do. And nobody had ever hit him before. He had bounced checks on him. He would lie to them about documents and that. And it was well known. He was like that. But they wanted to go back to him because he could provide the documents they wanted. He took orders for documents frequently and miraculously found them. But anyway, this guy up in Idaho, he beat him up. Hofmann didn’t know what to think. Nobody’s ever hit him before and he’s a coward. That’s why they bomb. Because you don’t have to be there when somebody gets injured. And, so anyway, the guy says, “I want my money back and I want it next Monday,” or whatever it was. Now what is he going to do? Now this is speculative, but it seems to make sense from the bits of pieces of puzzle that we put together.

He says, “What can I do so he won’t come after me and hit me anymore?” And he’s thinking, you know, “If one of my best friends die, I’ll have an excuse to go to his funeral and he won’t come back. He’ll give me a few days. By then the Oath will be sold back there.” And in fact, I think it was the American Antiquarian Society was meeting to discuss purchasing it again on Tuesday or Wednesday of that week. We know that because we saw the agenda for the meeting. And again, I don’t know how many of the other investigators saw this, but we did. That’s why this is another piece that we had that others did not, so that day of either Tuesday or Wednesday is crucial because that’s when they’re voting to buy it. And Schiller & Wapner convinced him they’re going to buy it so he knows he’s going to get it. So, he needs to postpone just a couple of days before this guy comes back and beats him up again. And so, we found in his possession a three by five card that had five of his closest friends written, their names written on it in Mark’s handwriting. And by the name of Steve Christensen was an asterisk. We’re assuming that he put the asterisk there. But anyway, so it was one of his five closest friends he had to kill so he could go to their funeral. The bombs came up. Steve Christensen was blown up and of course the second bomb was a diversionary thing for the police department, which they believed for several days that they were involved, not in the Salamander Letter, but involved in financial dealings down in Las Vegas.

The irony of that is the news media didn’t believe that. They kept putting Salamander Letter. So, what is Hofmann hearing about that the police are investigating Las Vegas or are they investigating the Salamander Letter? All he sees is the Salamander Letter. So, he’s a little concerned more and then he gets a call from the guy and he says, “Hey, you got to wait for a couple of days. My best friend got killed and going to his funeral.”

He says, “I don’t care. I want my money back. And if you’re not around and coming after your family.”

Check out our conversation….

Find out why Mark Hofmann killed his best friends.
Find out why Mark Hofmann killed his best friends.

Don’t forget to check out our other interviews with George!

172: Who was the 3rd Bomb Intended For?

171: More Hofmann Techniques & Forged Sports Memorabilia

170: How Hofmann Fooled Experts with a Toy Chemistry Set

169: How George Became a Forensics Expert

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Bomb Day 1 – 2 Killed – October 15, 1985

Steve Christensen was killed on October 15, 1985 when he picked up a package outside his office.  It was a pipe bomb and it blew up with a bunch of concrete nails killing him instantly.  It was a horrible scene.  Curt Bench describes how he found out about it driving to work and that he immediately called his friend Mark Hofmann to warn him about a bomber out there.

A few hours later Kathy Sheets also picked up another bomb from Mark Hofmann and she was killed instantly.  Her husband, Gary Sheets had been partners with Steve Christensen.  Many wondered if this was a financial deal.  Was it a mafia plot, or was it something to do with Mormon documents?  Both men had experience with those.  Let’s listen in as Curt Bench tells us about how the news unfolded to him.

Curt:  I talked to Mark on the phone, the day of the bombings.

GT:  Oh really.

Curt:  Several times, probably six or seven times.  I called first to warn him about the bombings, well bombing at that point because there was already a lot on the news.  I was actually driving to work that morning and they said there was a bomb that had gone off in the Judge Building.  It was just a few blocks from where I worked.  They even as I recall gave the office number and it said a businessman had been killed.  I only knew one person in the Judge Building and that was Steve Christensen, so as soon as I got to my office at work I looked up in my directory and pulled up his name and there was that office number at the Judge Building and I was just sick physically.  I mean it was just horrible.

I got the answering machine and I said Mark, this is Curt.  This is an emergency.  Please call me back immediately, as soon as you get this.

A short time later he called, and just kind of light-heartedly said, Curt this is Mark.  You said it was an emergency but then everything’s an emergency with you, just making a joke.  Then I told him what had happened, that Steve Christensen had been killed and there was a sharp intake of breath, “What?” like he was genuinely shocked.  I told him everything I’d heard.  It was as if he’d never heard a thing.  I warned him and told him to get his family out of the house, to get into hiding, whatever because we didn’t know what was going on.

GT:  I know originally it seems like because Steve was a financial thing, there was a lot of people thought it must have had something to do with his finances, but you originally thought it had something to do with…

Curt interrupts:  Well I didn’t know.  Nobody knew.

GT:  Oh ok.

Curt:  And that very day there was speculation about, did it have something to do with Mormon documents, because Steve had been in the news.  I’m trying to remember about the news part.  Certainly it was known he had been involved in trying to get the Salamander Letter.

GT:  So you made the connection that you thought it could have been?

Curt:  Well it could have been.  Yeah there was speculation early on about was this business related, because there were angry investors with the Sheets company, CFS.

What are your reactions to the bombings?  Do you remember them?

Bomb Day 1 – 2 Killed – October 15, 1985