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Attacker blamed Masonic conspiracy theory, APD says

Lawrence Capener, 24, the suspect in a multiple stabbing at an Albuquerque church, makes his first appearance in court via teleconference from jail on Monday, April 29, 2013.
Lawrence Capener, 24, the suspect in a multiple stabbing at an Albuquerque church, makes his first appearance in court via teleconference from jail on Monday, April 29, 2013.

Lawrence Capener had been attending St. Jude Thaddeus Catholic Church about three months and believed the choir director was a Mason involved in a large-scale conspiracy and that the devil was piping messages through

the church’s PA system, according to police.

As services at the church on Albuquerque’s West Side were ending on Sunday, Capener suddenly decided that he “had enough” and that he “had to take action.”

So he jumped over several church pews, reached into his pocket for a knife, and plunged it into Adam Alvarez’s back, according to police and court records.

As he went to stab the popular choir director a second time, several parishioners — including an off-duty Albuquerque Fire Department lieutenant and a well-known Albuquerque bail bondsman — were among those who subdued Capener, police said.

Capener told police he “did not know if they were also Masons, so he decided to stab them as well,” according to a criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court.

After others had jumped on Capener to stop the attack, Daren DeAguero, an off-duty Albuquerque police officer, “cuffed and detained” Capener and handed him over to authorities who arrived later, according to a news release from APD.

The bondsman, 53-year-old Gerald Madrid, was a flautist with the choir and stepped in as soon as he saw Capener attack Alvarez, according to police. He wrapped his arms around Capener and was stabbed five times in the back.

He was recovering at University of New Mexico Hospital on Monday, according to his family.

Also expected to make full recoveries were Alvarez, 48; the firefighter, Lt. Greg Aragon, 43; and 37-year-old Michael Tungate, who police say was among those who struggled to stop Capener from stabbing Alvarez.

Meanwhile, on Monday, Capener made his initial appearance in Metro Court via teleconference from the Metropolitan Detention Center, where he has been since Sunday night.

Metro Judge Sharon Walton increased Capener’s bond from $75,000 cash or surety to $250,000 cash or surety, citing “the harm done to the alleged victims” and comments attributed to Capener in the criminal complaint.

Capener, dressed in an orange jumpsuit, spoke only two words during the court proceeding: he said “yes” twice after Walton asked whether he understood the conditions she had set for his release.

A member of Madrid’s family had asked for a $500,000 cash-only bond. But Walton agreed with a recommendation from the court’s background investigator, who pointed out that Capener had no known criminal history.

Outside the courtroom, Madrid’s son, Christian Madrid, also questioned why the charges against Capener were limited to three felony counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon resulting in great bodily harm.

“We hope that, when he’s indicted, the charges will be much, much higher,” Christian Madrid said.

Prosecutors have until May 13 to seek an indictment.

Madrid’s wife, Robynn Madrid, said she witnessed the attack.

After reading the criminal complaint on Monday, she said she hopes Capener “gets some help. We’re praying for Lawrence’s family, as well. … I believe in my heart that he is a sick or disturbed person … people have delusions.”

Capener’s mother did not return several telephone calls seeking comment Monday. Neither did other family members.

The Rev. John C. Daniel, who was celebrating the Mass on Sunday, had seen Capener in the church before but did not recognize him as a regular parishioner.

Daniel said Sunday that he spoke with Capener’s mother and was left with the impression that Capener was challenged by mental health issues. “There was no connection between the choir director and the assailant,” he said.

APD spokesman Robert Gibbs said police who responded to the church had similar impressions, based on descriptions of the attack from witnesses and on statements Capener made later.

“But as far as making that final determination, that’s not our call,” Gibbs said. “If that’s something the defense raises — that he had some kind of mental health issues — then that will be handled in court.”

Capener graduated from Cibola High School in 2007, according to Albuquerque Public Schools spokesman Rigo Chavez. Before that, he attended James Monroe and Taylor middle schools and Sierra Vista Elementary School.

Hours before the stabbings, Capener vandalized the Masonic Lodge, 1420 Barbara Loop SE, in Rio Rancho with spray paint, police said. He still had paint on his hands when he was taken into custody.

In an interview with police, Capener apologized for several of the stabbings and said his intended target was the choir leader, Adam Alvarez, according to the criminal complaint.

Capener told police he believed Alvarez was a Mason and that he was “fed up with the Masons, and he was going to do something about the ‘one’ that was in the choir,” the complaint said.

He went on to say that the Masons are “a group of individuals involved in a conspiracy that is more far-reaching than I could or would believe,” according to the criminal complaint.

Theories about the Freemasons being involved in various plots, conspiracies and world-domination efforts have persisted in Western culture for decades.

According to a website maintained by the Sandoval No. 76 Masonic Lodge in Rio Rancho — the one Capener allegedly vandalized — freemasonry is a social organization of men that symbolically applies the principle of Organized Masonry and architecture to the “science and art of character building.”

Masonry “has many charitable projects” and uses “ageless methods and lessons to make each of us a better person,” the website says.

Police said the “quick action by the parishioners and numerous off-duty public safety personnel clearly prevented a major tragedy.”
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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