Linda Sillito and Allen Roberts photograph collection, 1970s-1980s

Overview of the Collection

Sillitoe, Linda, 1948-2010
Linda Sillito and Allen Roberts photograph collection
1970s-1980s (inclusive)
35 photographs
Collection Number
The Linda Sillito and Allen Roberts photograph collection document some moments from the early life of Mark Hoffman but primarily contain images concerning his role in the infamous "Salamander Letter" trial in Salt Lake City, Utah. All of the photographs are recent or are recent reprints with excellent detail.
University of Utah Libraries, Special Collections
Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library
University of Utah
295 South 1500 East
Salt Lake City, UT

Telephone: 8015818863
Access Restrictions

Twenty-four hour advanced notice encouraged. Materials must be used on-site. Access to parts of this collection may be restricted under provisions of state or federal law.


Historical NoteReturn to Top

On 15 October 1985, two pipe bombs exploded in Salt Lake City killing Steven Christensen and Kathleen Sheets. Two early theories emerged to account for the murders. One suggested a possible connection between the murders and Coordinated Financial Services, a company at which Christensen had worked with Sheets' husband, Gary. The company was in financial trouble, and it was considered highly likely that an irate investor had arranged for the explosives to be planted. The other connection between the two victims was the "Salamander" letter, a highly controversial document which Christensen had purchased with the help of Gary Sheets. The content of the letter, which brought into question the official account of a key event in the history of the Mormon church, had upset many community members. The possibility that the bombings were connected to this letter was also given consideration.

On 16 October another bomb exploded, seriously injuring Mark Hofmann, the documents dealer who had sold the "Salamander" letter to Christensen. At this time investigative efforts were turned entirely towards the document theory of motive, and Mark Hofmann was considered a suspect in the bombings. As investigations continued the case increased in complexity. A number of people and organizations were found to be involved in the confusing web of transactions that had culminated in the murders. The lengthy and meticulous investigative process resulted in, among other things, a new method of detecting forged documents.

When Hofmann's preliminary hearing began on 14 April 1986, many were outraged that the prosecution had spent so much time and money working on a case against a man who seemed so clearly innocent. Hofmann had passed a polygraph test. He was quiet, reserved, intelligent, a good father and husband, and an active member of the Mormon church. As the hearing transpired, however, it became clear that the prosecution had a substantial case. Hofmann was arraigned and a trial date was set for 23 January 1987.

In the interim, a number of changes took place within the County Attorney's Office, resulting in the removal from the case of a key prosecutor. Also during this time, and in spite of the strong case the prosecution was building, a plea bargain was struck with the defense. The deal allowed Hofmann to plead guilty to reduced charges in exchange for granting prosecutors interview time with him. Hofmann was sentenced to one term of five years to life, and three terms of one to fifteen years. While reduced charges resulted in light sentencing, the judge presiding over the trial recommended that, due to the nature of his crimes, Hofmann spend the rest of his natural life in prison.

On 28 January 1988, Hofmann appeared before the members of the Board of Pardons who were to determine the actual length of his imprisonment. His own words helped them to reach a decision. During the hearing, Hofmann admitted he had murdered Christensen and Sheets in order to keep himself from being exposed as a fraud, and he displayed a chilling lack of concern for human life, especially in regards to the Sheets bombing, which he referred to as a game. General guidelines suggest seven years in prison for concurrent service by a first time offender of the sentences Hofmann held. However, consistent with what was deemed appropriate by the judge and the prosecution, he was sentenced to spend the rest of his natural life in prison.

Since that time, Hofmann's wife has filed for divorce, rumors have circulated of his intentions to have the members of the Board of Pardons killed, and he has twice attempted suicide by drug overdose.

In a 1988 interview with a County Attorney's Office investigator, Hofmann mentioned that, due to the worthlessness of life, he felt nothing for his victims. As far as he was concerned, they could have died just as easily in a car accident, or of a heart attack. "They don't know they're dead."

[background information from MS 0577: THE SALAMANDER COLLECTION: A REGISTER by Christie Pugh]

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The photographs in this collection document some moments from the early life of Mark Hoffman but primarily contain images concerning his role in the infamous "Salamander Letter" trial in Salt Lake City, Utah. All of the photographs are recent or are recent reprints with excellent detail.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

The library does not claim to control copyright for all materials in the collection. An individual depicted in a reproduction has privacy rights as outlined in Title 45 CFR, part 46 (Protection of Human Subjects). For further information, please review the J. Willard Marriott Library’s Use Agreement and Reproduction Request forms.

Preferred Citation

Collection Name, Collection Number, Box Number, Folder Number. Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


Collection is arranged topically.

Related Materials

See also the Linda Sillito audio-visual collection (A0386).

Processing Note

Processed by Dale Larsen in 1992.

Addendum processed by by Roy Webb in 2003.

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Container(s) Description
Box Folder
1 1 Mark Hofmann Personal Photographs
  • 1-3: Childhood Mark Hofmann with several other children
  • 4-5: Missionary photograph of Mark Hofmann
  • 6: Mark Hofmann water skiing
  • 7-8: Mark outside apartment with unidentified man
1 2 Mormons Inspecting Letter
  • 1: Mormon officials inspecting letter with Mark Hofmann
1 3 Mark Hofmann Trial
  • 1-20: Various 4x5 photographs of the trial of Mark Hofmann in Salt Lake City
  • 21: Unidentified group
  • 22-26: 8x10 trial photographs

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Murderers--United States--Photographs
  • Trials (Murder)--Utah--Salt Lake City--Photographs

Personal Names

  • Hofmann, Mark--Photographs
  • Roberts, Allen D., 1947-

Form or Genre Terms

  • Photographic prints--1970-1989
  • Photographic prints--Color--1970-1989
  • Portrait photographs