Steven Christensen was a 31-year-old stockbroker who had just arrived at work when he was killed in an explosion October 15, 1985 in Salt Lake City. Police later found the bomb was set by Mark Hofmann, who was forging documents related to the Mormon Church, and Christensen was threatening to reveal the truth.
Hofmann pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder and two counts of theft by deception in 1987, and was sentenced to life in prison. Less than two hours after a pipe bomb killed Christensen, a second bomb killed Kathleen Sheets, the wife of Christensen’s former business partner, Gary Sheets.
Hofmann remains in a Utah state prison today. He was a master forger who sold fake documents to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, working with Christensen, a Mormon bishop and historian. Christensen discovered the fraud and threatened to expose it. Hofmann killed Christensen in an attempt to prevent the truth from coming out.
A new Netflix docuseries, Murder Among the Mormons, examines the strange case and the motives behind the Salt Lake City murders. The three-part series was released Wednesday, March 3, 2021.
Here’s what you need to know:
Christensen’s Widow Testified in Court About Finding Her Husband Dying After a Bomb Shredded His Body
Steve Christensen’s wife, Terri Christensen, was left behind to testify in court about the horrific scene she encountered after a bomb went off and fatally injured her husband. At a preliminary hearing in Hofmann’s case in 1986, she “detailed her experience of finding Steve Christensen, lying in the hallway, emitting moaning sounds like a little child crying,” The Salt Lake City Tribune reported.
A 1985 article from The New York Times reported on the explosion soon after it happened.
“The stockbroker, Steven Christensen, 31 years old, had just arrived at his office in the Judge Building shortly after 8 A.M. when a box bearing his name and lying in a corridor exploded, killing him instantly, the police said,” the Times reported.
Police speculated at the time “the explosions may have been the work of a paid assassin or assassins.” Salt Lake City Police were kept busy that day following up on eight other bomb threats, and evacuating homes and businesses tied to Christensen and Sheets. Investigators were already honing in on the motive the day of the bombing, even before a third pipe bomb injured Hofmann and police identified him as the prime suspect.
“Investigators were pursuing two possible motives, said Chief Willoughby. One centers on the former business relationship between Mr. Christensen and Mr. Sheets, he said, and the other on Mr. Christensen’s procurement of a document implying that the founder of the Mormon Church used folk magic,” the article said.
The document the article refers to was the infamous “Salamander Letter,” which Hofmann forged and passed off as a legitimate Mormon text.
Christensen was experiencing financial difficulties at the time of his death. The day of the murder, he had a meeting scheduled with Hofmann about documents the master forger had promised to reveal. Those documents did not exist, and Hofmann, pressed against the deadline, decided to set off a series of bombs to dismantle the plot to reveal the fraudulent documents and distract from the forgery.
Christensen Left Behind a Wife, Terri Romney, & 4 Children; His Dad Founded the ‘Mr. Mac’ Clothing Line
In addition to his wife, Terri Luran Romney, Christensen left behind four children: Joshua Steven, Justin Wade, Jared Romney and Steven Fred, named after his father, Steven Fred Christensen.
He was the son of Fred MacRay Christensen and Joan Graham. They were married for 66 years before his father died. Steven Christensen was the son of devout Mormons and one of eight children. His parents went on to have 39 grandchildren and 44 great-grandchildren, Fred Christensen’s obituary said.
Steven Christensen was the son of a regionally known business owner. Fred Christensen founded the Mr. Mac men’s retail clothing stores in the 1960s. At first, business was slow, but he was determined to make it work. He gained traction in the market by selling men’s suits from the back of his van. The store now has 10 locations, including one in Arizona.
Both of Steve Christensen’s parents were also heavily involved in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
“Mac was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and served faithfully as a sealer in the Bountiful, Utah Temple,” the obituary said. “He particularly enjoyed his twelve-year calling as president of the Tabernacle Choir, Orchestra, and Bell Choir at Temple Square. He also served with Joan as Director of the Washington, D.C. Visitors Center for two years.”
Joan Graham Christensen died less than three months after her husband, on January 1, 2020.
“Joan was truly the wind beneath Mac’s wings,” her obituary said. “As Mac built a business, Joan managed the house, the family, and the finances. As Mac worked on the Bountiful Temple Committee, Joan oversaw food preparations for attending dignitaries and guests. When Mac was called to be the director of the Washington DC Temple Visitors Center, Joan was by his side, taking care of the missionaries and coordinating the endless events at the Center. Joan was forever cooking, creating, and planning whatever Mac needed to help him fulfill the countless projects and efforts he was called to. They were an incredible team, and both thought they got the better end of the deal.”