Bound by Fear: Polygamy in Arizona

For decades the state has let a feudal colony of fundamentalist Mormons force underage girls into illegal polygamous marriages

The UEP then bulldozed her house, and the property was given to a member of the powerful Barlow family.

"I've been a good girl, and they abused me," Thomas said.

But unlike many who have had to leave town upon eviction, the elderly Thomas was lucky. She didn't have to move far. She converted an old garage on a relative's private land into a small home for less than $1,000. There, she's replanted her herb garden and counsels young FLDS women who call on her for advice – despite her status as an apostate.

Located on the Arizona Strip, Colorado City is cut off from the rest of Arizona by the Grand Canyon to the south and the Colorado River to the east.
Located on the Arizona Strip, Colorado City is cut off from the rest of Arizona by the Grand Canyon to the south and the Colorado River to the east.
The Leroy S. Johnson Meeting Hall.
John Dougherty
The Leroy S. Johnson Meeting Hall.

For a while after she was driven out, she wondered if the FLDS would come looking for her. "I was afraid for my life," she said. "But God was with me."

Supported by Taxes

At the same time the United Effort Plan was kicking what it considers homeowner dissidents – including elderly women and widows – off its property, church leaders were encouraging the faithful to tap welfare programs to support huge FLDS families.

Like nearly every family in Colorado City, the Rodney Holm household relied heavily on food stamps to purchase groceries.

By late 2001, the Rodney Holm clan included 20 children along with the three wives. The family's food stamp benefit was worth about $2,016 a month – based on the Arizona Department of Economic Security food stamp rate of $84 a person.

According to DES, more than half the roughly 4,000 people living in the Colorado City area in Arizona are receiving food stamps worth about $172,000 a month – or $2.1 million a year.

Federal and state welfare regulations do not prohibit families in polygamous marriages from receiving welfare benefits.

Food stamp eligibility is determined by income and the number of people living together in a household – which is defined as a group of people who purchase food and eat meals together.

"It doesn't matter whether you are blood-related or not," says Vincent Wood, state DES director for benefits and medical eligibility.

So it's very easy to qualify for benefits. So easy that Ruth Stubbs said she never directly applied for food stamps or medical insurance through the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the state agency that administers Medicare benefits. Stubbs said she and her children were enrolled by her sister, Suzie. That, too, is legal, as long as the person submitting the application has the authorization of the person receiving the benefits.

Taxpayer-supported AHCCCS provides the bulk of the medical insurance for residents in Colorado City and the surrounding area.

The state reports that 4,138 Colorado City-area residents are enrolled in the program, costing the state about $8 million a year in premium payments.

AHCCCS eligibility is determined by combining the income of husband and wife and considering how much money is necessary to pay for the medical care of the children produced by that relationship. The process is repeated for each of the husband's wives and children.

As might be expected, Colorado City AHCCCS medical expenses are far above the state average in pediatric care. However, expenses for other health-care categories are below the average.

Colorado City residents are increasingly tapping state child-care assistance programs.

In mid-1998, there were no children receiving child-care benefits in Colorado City. By the end of last September, 46 families with 182 children were receiving state benefits. The average monthly payment per child was $247 – or about $540,000 a year.

The benefits typically are paid to state-certified day-care centers. DES officials said the benefits also can be paid to relatives of the parents, such as aunts.

In many cases, men in Colorado City are married to sisters, such as Rodney Holm's marriage to Ruth and Suzie Stubbs.

An aunt, who is also a wife, could be eligible to receive child-care benefits by taking care of the children of a sister while the mother and father are working or enrolled in school. It is unknown if this is occurring in Colorado City, DES officials said.

Young Kids Abused

While Colorado City police respected fellow cop Rodney Holm's spiritual marriage to Ruth Stubbs and winked at his apparently breaking the law by sleeping with the 16-year-old girl, Utah authorities didn't see it the same way and leveled felony charges against Holm.

Colorado City Marshal Sam Roundy, a polygamist, did not return a phone call seeking comment about Rodney Holm, who has since been transferred to the town's public works department at the same salary pending the outcome of his Utah criminal trial.

All along, Ruth and Rodney had kept their marriage secret when police from outside the area came to town. The couple would ignore each other if Rodney happened to bring outsider cops to the gas station-deli where Ruth worked.

"He says that he could get into trouble for him being a cop because he was married to somebody younger than 18," Ruth told attorney general's investigators.

He was so worried, Ruth said, that he told her "not to come outside and kiss him goodbye" because he was afraid someone might be taking photographs.

For that reason and others, the pressure of the polygamous marriage on Ruth Stubbs finally reached a breaking point. On December 9, 2001, Ruth gathered up her children and fled Colorado City. She moved into her sister's house in Phoenix.

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My Voice Nation Help
2 comments
Lydia
Lydia

Ken, (with regards to your comment on Apr 20th, 2008, 07:50)

I don�t believe what you suffered had anything to do with God; it�s a power struggle being fought by the truly weak and unstable inhabitants of this word, desperately trying to convince themselves of their self-righteousness when it�s so plain to see all they want is to be impervious to our laws and poke fun at morality. These people could sit in front of a mirror and look themselves in the eye and truly believe what they are doing is correct, like the saying �as happy as a pig in s**t� these creatures have never been educated to question, just to accept without question, so have no comparison. As for taking your own life, would you hang yourself in a barn cos the pigs got in the shit again?

What I�m trying to say is that you have broken away from that way of life, as you understood it be wrong, despite the fact it was the way you were raised, so you must see you are a very special, insightful and strong willed person to go against your family, your blood, and do what is obviously right and moral in this very corrupt world, this world needs more people like yourself to stand up for what is write, no matter what the consequences, don�t deprive the world..

Ken
Ken

Living without freedom.

Being born into the Polygamist Cult,FLDS Headquarter at the time was colorado city AZ, Being a child of the Black Family, knowing of others that have left (My couple of Uncles), that joined Satan and the evil people, outsiders the Gentiles as they were called,

It just meant that we would have to make up for the wrong that we had done to the community by being Pure and doing everything that the only proffit of god told us, even if it meant Killing anyone that he had asked us to even our parrents or brothers.

This life was just a test, a test to see if we are ready to Join Jesus in heaven, To build up the kingdom of heaven we need children and wives to bring with us in the afterlife, there are three levels of heaven and to be on the highest level where Jesus is then we need 3 wives, God knows when it is time for us to have children when girls can have children then they must have a child every 11 months and we will follow there cycles so we know when the time is right.

I felt bad for the Gentiles, Asking my Father "Is it fair that they are going to hell?" and the answer was well they might have another Chance but a new world will have to be built but God did that in 6 days so anything is possible.

Then he would add but since you have been chosen by god to be a part of Zion then if you were to leave then God would through your soul into the melting pot of Hell, where you would no longer exist in the afterlife,

I asked allot of questions wich was not good it meant that the evil spirit as my grandma taught me was doubting my faith in God (blind faith),

I remember being punished as a Child, Water torture was the method used by my grandma, I remember her water boarding my younger Brothers, to the point of breaking there spirit (spanking them then runing water over there face from the kitchen sink) , Grandma would say that the young toddlers were susceptible to evil spirits entering there bodies and that by doing this they would leave, Then as we got older around 9 or so she would change the methods of purifying our bodies by as she would say "Shocking the Devil out of us" throwing ice water in our face and making me angry at what point I would run as she would have my Cousins chasing me with water around the Yard and running away.

Remembering why I hate my brothers, I was always active when I was younger, running ect. my grandma would resort to giving me enema's as a form of discipline, she would ask my older brothers was (me) good when I was gone? and they would say nope, I would be like please don't lie, (They would mock me saying how does it feel to have water up my butt?)and laugh at me and my grandma would administer the water to the point I could not hold, crying the whole time, I would talk to my parents, and they would never listen. even to this day,

My mom says that grandma was just trying to help me and I was probly sick. no I was not sick my family was and is.it has been 5 years since I have talked to my family, My dad is dead and my family is living to the best of there ability.

It has been 15 years since being kicked out by my Mom and I was 16 at the time and I still feel sad, Should I have just taken my life when I was younger, so much pain and unhappiness in the name of God.

 
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