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

"It's a shitty place to come from," says Pennie Peterson, Ruth Stubbs' older sister who fled 15 years ago fearing for her life. "It messes with your mind."

Domestic War

Ruth Stubbs soon found herself trapped in Rodney Holm's spacious home at the mouth of Maxwell Canyon in Hildale.

FLDS fodder: Ladell Pipkin is one of hundreds of boys driven out of Colorado City who wind up struggling on the streets.
John Dougherty
FLDS fodder: Ladell Pipkin is one of hundreds of boys driven out of Colorado City who wind up struggling on the streets.
Craig Chatwin says teenage girls are eager to marry into polygamy.
John Dougherty
Craig Chatwin says teenage girls are eager to marry into polygamy.

The two-story, barn-styled house appears to be well above the financial means of a man who earns $29,000 a year as a Colorado City cop.

Mortgages, however, aren't something Colorado City residents worry about. Their homes are built piecemeal and paid for with cash. The land is owned by the church-controlled United Effort Plan. Residents pay only property taxes and utility bills.

But the cost of living cheap is extracted in other ways.

Soon after Ruth moved in, whatever limited freedoms she had as a single teenager were revoked. Ruth had to ask her husband for permission to leave the house, to spend money, to even eat some sugar or drink a cup of coffee.

"I couldn't do anything without asking," Ruth told AG's investigators.

Any money she earned working a $6-an-hour job at the gas station/mini-mart had to be turned over to her husband, right down to the last dime.

Her living quarters were little more than a jail cell. Ruth was consigned to a bedroom that was a converted office.

"I just had a little bed on the floor and, and [the room] had a bathroom hooked to it," she said.

It was the only place she could find respite from the ongoing power struggle between her sister, Suzie, and the second wife, Wendy Holm.

Things were already complicated in the household before Ruth arrived. Wendy had been married to Rodney Holm's brother. When that marriage ended in divorce, the Prophet gave Wendy to Rodney. Consequently, all three of Rodney's wives were sisters-in-law.

Yet this entanglement is nothing by Colorado City standards. One young woman who left the area several years ago said she figured out her family tree and found she was related to more than 1,000 people in the Colorado City area.

The Holm household was anything but content.

Wendy and Suzie had hated each other from the moment Wendy entered the home eight years earlier. Naive Ruth soon found herself a foot solider in Suzie's war.

"Suzie pitted me against Wendy," Ruth said.

The bitterness extended to the children.

"I know Suzie hits Wendy's kids sometimes, you know, when she feels like it or whatever," Ruth said to investigators. She said babies and toddlers among the 20 children in the home were sometimes left in the care of 6-year-old kids.

Ruth said Rodney Holm, meanwhile, stayed aloof from the fray, telling her to "love" her sister wives.

He spent much of his time in a laundry- and bathroom-equipped shop behind the house. He often slept in the out building, summoning whichever wife he chose to the quarters to spend the night. The wives generally followed a three-night rotation and would get hugely upset if Rodney favored one of the others on an assigned evening.

Ruth said her sister would get vicious toward her even on her assigned nights with Rodney.

"She'd call me a bitch, you know. She'd call me names and get pissed every time I was with Rod," Ruth said. "It made it miserable to live there."

Spontaneous sex was rare, but it did occur. Ruth said she sometimes had sex with Rodney at his brother Greg's Colorado City office while her husband was on police duty. This would happen on nights when Rodney was supposed to be with one of the other wives.

A month into the marriage, Ruth discovered she was pregnant.

"I cried," she said. "I felt if I wanted to leave, now . . . I couldn't."

Her daughter Maranda was born on October 5, 1999. Just more than a year later, her son Winston was born. Ruth found herself on the typical fundamentalist Mormon track that could lead to a dozen children before the age of 30.

Two years into the marriage, Ruth said, she began discussing with her sister the possibility of leaving. Suzie strongly objected.

"If you leave right now, it's going to make Wendy so happy," Ruth said her sister told her. "Don't leave! Don't leave!"

Rodney soon discovered her desire to get out and began haranguing her. "That's what the devil wants you to do," Ruth said he told her.

Rodney took Ruth to see Prophet Rulon Jeffs' son, Warren, who had become the "mouthpiece" for his ailing father.

Ruth said Warren Jeffs spat out a frightening warning: "You can either live here and live in hell, and then when you die have eternal happiness. Or else, you can go out into the world and live in hell and die and even have more eternal hell."

With each passing day after that, the now 18-year-old Ruth pregnant with her third child became more and more depressed.

"I thought a lot about, you know, maybe, you know, the Lord will love me enough to take my life, you know, and get me out of here."

Girls Brainwashed

The Arizona grand jury investigation into Colorado City begun under former attorney general and now governor Janet Napolitano has continued under her successor, Terry Goddard.

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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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