Polygamists Probed

The Utah AG's office vows aggressive prosecution of fundamentalist Mormons who "marry" young girls

"There are felonies, and then there are felonies," Smith says.

Asked why he didn't leave a deputy to monitor Black's house overnight, Smith says he didn't have enough manpower for such a stakeout.

Bottom line: Black's arrest, Smith says, is not Washington County's concern.

Washington County (Utah) sheriff's deputies at Orson William Black's house.
Courtesy of KTVK-TV Channel 3
Washington County (Utah) sheriff's deputies at Orson William Black's house.
Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff: "They want to get them pregnant when they are still kids."
Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff: "They want to get them pregnant when they are still kids."

"That's Arizona's problem," he says.

The WCSO encounter with Black was expected to be raised during a Utah Senate confirmation committee hearing on Ludlow's judicial nomination scheduled for April 30 (after press time for this article). A committee staff member, Jerry Howe, says the Black incident raises a serious question about Ludlow's competency.

"Why didn't they arrest the guy when they had them surrounded? I don't have the answer to that," Howe said before the hearing.

The failure by Washington County law enforcement to arrest Black surprised Mohave County (Arizona) Sheriff Tom Sheahan. On the morning of March 21, Sheahan told New Times that he understood Black's house had been surrounded the night before and that Black would be arrested.

"If they capture him, he would be extradited to Arizona and would be in our jail," Sheahan said at the time.

A month later, Sheahan says he doesn't know why Black wasn't nabbed and that he hasn't asked for an explanation from Washington County.

"It doesn't matter what happened at that time," Sheahan says. "It matters where he is at now."

Law enforcement officials in Arizona and Utah believe Black has fled to Mexico. In recent weeks, several of Black's wives and more than a dozen children have also left the country to reportedly join him south of the border.

Among the children who left Arizona is 15-year-old Sally Beth Barlow, whom Peterson believes is now "married" to Black as his seventh wife and has borne him a child.

Sally Beth's mother, Rosie Stubbs Barlow Black, is also married to Black. Sally Beth was fathered by a previous husband.

Beginning in February, Peterson says, she made repeated calls to Arizona Child Protective Services asking that the welfare of Black's children, including Sally Beth, be ensured. Peterson says she was concerned about reports that Sally Beth's appearance had changed dramatically in the last year and that the girl had not been in school for many months.

Peterson had good reason to be worried.

Her sisters are Roberta and Beth Stubbs. Roberta and Beth both delivered babies before they were 18, and Black claims to be the father.

The girls, however, told Arizona AG's investigators in separate interviews last year that they have never had sexual relations with Black, claiming they became pregnant through artificial insemination.

Peterson wasn't the only person expressing concern to CPS that Sally Beth appeared to have had a baby.

A Mohave County sheriff's deputy told a CPS worker that he had observed Sally Beth adjusting a nursing bra and standing close to an infant during an unsuccessful attempt in March to serve the felony warrant on Black, according to an April 14 taped phone call between Peterson and CPS investigator Joanna Donglinger obtained by New Times.

"The police officer said . . . the baby was laying on the bed and that Sally Beth was standing in front of a mirror and adjusting a bra," Donglinger says during the taped conversation. "And he put two and two together, assuming or thinking, that she's been nursing the baby."

Donglinger would soon meet Sally Beth and see evidence for herself. Donglinger went to Black's Arizona home in late March and observed Sally Beth hovering near a baby. Black had his half-dozen or so wives and children spread between two homes about eight miles apart -- one in Arizona and the other in Utah.

"I just happened to notice what looked like a nursing bra," Donglinger says on the tape. "It was just lucky. She was staying so close to that baby, it was a little confusing."

Donglinger was apparently confused because another of Black's wives had also had a baby recently -- although Peterson says that baby is older than the infant observed with Sally Beth.

Despite evidence that Sally Beth was the mother of a baby and that Black was a fugitive on charges of sexual misconduct with minors, CPS failed to act quickly and remove the children from the home, much less see that medical examinations were conducted.

Peterson continued to lodge complaints with CPS officials about the slow pace of Donglinger's investigation. Peterson, who lives in Phoenix, says her contacts in Colorado City told her on April 7 that Black's wives and children were preparing to leave.

Peterson says she immediately began calling all of her CPS contacts, including Donglinger and her supervisor, Carol Quasula, warning that the group was preparing to flee.

Late on the afternoon of April 8, CPS sent investigator Vince Vincent to the house. But Vincent did not have a court order and his effort to remove Sally Beth was rebuffed. Vincent, according to a Donglinger's taped phone call with Peterson, saw several men helping to pack vehicles parked at the house that afternoon.

A CPS investigator returned the next day with a court order, Peterson says. But by that time, Black's brood of wives and more than a dozen children -- including 15-year-old Sally Beth -- were gone. Also fleeing the country were the two victims in Arizona's case against Black -- Roberta and Beth Stubbs.

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