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Where is Mark Hofmann from ‘Murder Among the Mormons’ Now?
This article contains spoilers for Murder Among the Mormons.
Shortly after 8 a.m. on October 15, 1985, a package sent to rare Mormon document collector and stockbroker Steve Christensen exploded at his workplace in Salt Lake City. Christensen, 31, was killed instantly, and as the news spread, Utah’s Latter-day Saints community was shocked and fearful about the unprecedented and inexplicable act of violence. Only three hours later a second bomb exploded and killed 50-year-old Kathy Sheets, the wife of Christensen’s former employer, at her home. The sense of panic in the community deepened. The third bomb went off the following day in the car of Mark Hofmann’s car, a 31-year-old rare Mormon document dealer. Before Steve Christensen’s death the previous day, Hofmann had been scheduled to meet with him about the sale of a new rare collection to the Mormon church. Netflix’s Murder Among the Mormons explains why, in Hofmann’s mind, Steve Christensen had to die—because the ‘collection’ Hofmann was to sell him didn’t exist yet, and he was worried that time was finally up on his years-long forgery scams.
Netflix’s Murder Among the Mormons explores the strange and devastating events of 1985 and the years of unbelievable deception that led up to them. Helmed by co-directors Tyler Measom and Jared Hess, who both grew up in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and executive produced by true crime master Joe Berlinger, Murder Among the Mormons dives deep into the world of rare document dealing and the art of masterful—and deadly—forgery.
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As the documentary shows, Hofmann was rushed to the hospital after the explosion went off in his car, where he stayed in critical condition for weeks. But a witness had spotted a man in a green letterman jacket delivering the package to Steve Christensen’s office, one later identified as Mark Hofmann’s, making him a suspect in the strange case.
A thorough search of Hofmann’s home yielded both document forgery and bomb-building supplies. And although investigations by both the Library of Congress and the FBI had ruled previous documents procured by Hofmann authentic, a thorough police investigation and a long-winded examination by document aging experts proved that many of the rare old documents that Mark Hofmann had bought and sold over his career were in fact forgeries. In a web of huge unpaid debts and lies, Hofmann had delivered the first bomb to Steve Christensen in an effort to forestall being outed as a forger when he failed to produce the collection he had planned to sell to him. The second bomb that killed Kathy Sheets was a “pure diversion,” according to Mark. With the third bomb the following day, Hofmann says he intended to kill himself, although he was unsuccessful.
A recreation for the documentary of the explosive devices Mark Hofmann built.
Mark Hofmann was sentenced to life in prison in January 1987 after pleading guilty to second-degree murder and theft by deception. He has never expressed remorse for his crimes, writing “I felt like I would rather take human life or even my own life rather than to be exposed,” in a 1988 letter entitled “A Summary of My Crimes” that he wrote to the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole. Hofmann’s wife Doralee Olds filed for divorce from Mark Hofmann in August 1988. She was totally deceived by Mark along with the document dealing community and LDS Church for years, and tells her story in Murder Among the Mormons.
On September 15, 1988, Hofmann was found comatose in his cell by his cellmate when he attempted to commit suicide by overdosing on anti-depressants. He survived the suicide attempt, returning to Utah State Prison twelve days afterwards. However, as the documentary tells, he suffered irreversible tissue damage to his right arm, and would never be able to commit another forgery by his own hand again. In December 2015, Hofmann was transferred from maximum security at the Utah State Prison in Draper to another state prison in Gunnison. Today, he is 66 years old, and has served 34 years of his life sentence. He’s never given an interview to the press, and has only corresponded with his family from prison, though eight books have been written about his forgeries and crimes in the years since. He did not return letters sent from the Murder Among the Mormons creators.
Portrait of Mormon antique collector/dealer Mark Hofmann, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1981. Hofmann later planted bombs that killed two church members, was arrested, and subsequently revealed to have been a highly successful forger. (Photo by Ben Martin/Getty Images)
The repercussions of Mark Hofmann’s forgeries still loom, as it is unknown how many are still in circulation today. He is recognized as one of the most skilled forgers in history, with forgeries including the works of Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Emily Dickinson, and George Washington. There’s also the Salamander Letter detailed in Murder Among the Mormons—a document which shook the foundation of Latter-day Saints belief enough that the Church purchased it from him in an effort to cover it up.
Co-director Tyler Measom told Esquire that what was most surprising to him in the process of creating Murder Among the Mormons is “how much pain still hangs over this entire state because of something that happened 37 years ago. Mark Hofmann took people’s lives. He took people’s money, he took their trust. He took their faith, and he did it without regret, without remorse and callously.”
Hofmann victim Kathy Sheets’ daughter Gretchen Sheets McNees grew up to be a detective with the Salt Lake City Police Department, and wants to ensure that Hofmann is remembered for what he is—a cold-blooded murderer. “I think they’ve kind of idolized him and given him a unique status I don’t think he deserves,” she told the Deseret Times in 2005. “Yes, he did these forgeries, but he also killed two people and didn’t care who he killed.”
Murder Among the Mormons ensures his crimes won’t soon be forgotten.
Lauren Kranc is an editorial assistant at Esquire, where she covers pop culture and television, with entirely too narrow of an expertise on Netflix dating shows.
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