On a Wing and a Prayer

Finding the Colorado City school district's airplane could lead to polygamist prophet Warren Jeffs' arrest

"[Former trustees] have a responsibility to give an accurate accounting," Shurtleff says. "They could be held in contempt if they don't."

Severing Jeffs' control over the UEP is a major step toward breaking the theocracy that has controlled all aspects of life in the two communities for more than 70 years. For the first time, the about 6,000 residents can openly express dissent without fear of losing their homes, businesses and families.

"I expect to see the towns becoming more normal," says Benjamin Bistline, who has written an exhaustive history of the nation's largest fundamentalist polygamist community.

But that doesn't mean the practice of polygamy will end.

It's too deeply ingrained, Bistline says. Instead of a single religious leader controlling life in the community, the local historian expects more families to quietly practice polygamy in independent clusters.

"You will never get rid of polygamy," Bistline says.

As for Warren Jeffs, the sooner we learn what happened to that airplane, the sooner the so-called prophet could be behind bars.

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