Under Siege

Polygamists are barricading their homes in the midst of mounting legal assaults by authorities

Fundamentalist Mormon polygamists along the Arizona-Utah border are steeling themselves against law enforcement agencies coming at them from several fronts.

Formidable eight-foot walls -- built from blocks, wood and steel, and occasionally mounted with surveillance cameras -- are under construction around the homes of many of the followers of Warren Jeffs, the self-proclaimed prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who has landed on the FBI's most-wanted list.

The 49-year-old Jeffs has instructed disciples to refuse to communicate with outsiders, especially authorities who are bearing down on community members for misuse of public funds and sex with underage girls.

Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith
Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith
Fundamentalist Mormon polygamists are building imposing walls around the perimeter of their homes in Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah.
Mark Folkerson
Fundamentalist Mormon polygamists are building imposing walls around the perimeter of their homes in Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah.
Colorado City Unified School District Superintendent Alvin Barlow may face criminal charges for misuse of public funds.
John Dougherty
Colorado City Unified School District Superintendent Alvin Barlow may face criminal charges for misuse of public funds.
The FLDS is nearing completion of a 90-foot-high temple in El Dorado, Texas.
The El Dorado Success
The FLDS is nearing completion of a 90-foot-high temple in El Dorado, Texas.
An FLDS woman takes notes while CCUSD assistant business manager Oliver Barlow addresses members of the school board.
John Dougherty
An FLDS woman takes notes while CCUSD assistant business manager Oliver Barlow addresses members of the school board.
Flagstaff attorney Bruce Griffen (left) and former Colorado City cop and polygamist Rodney Holm head to court.
John Dougherty
Flagstaff attorney Bruce Griffen (left) and former Colorado City cop and polygamist Rodney Holm head to court.
Mohave County Attorney's Office special investigator Gary Engels
Jackie Mercandetti
Mohave County Attorney's Office special investigator Gary Engels
Warren Jeffs lands on the FBI's most-wanted list.
Warren Jeffs lands on the FBI's most-wanted list.

"Tell them nothing!" is the order Jeffs delivered to the FLDS faithful.

The man whom fundamentalists consider their only spiritual link to God has been in hiding for two years and is believed to be overseeing the construction of a new enclave in El Dorado, Texas.

Hundreds of Jeffs' most trusted followers are rapidly building the new community that includes a fortress-like temple on 1,600 acres of rural Texas ranch land. The El Dorado compound is closed to outsiders, and an imposing block wall is under construction around a massive nine-story temple, which was erected at breakneck speed in less than nine months.

Authorities consider the El Dorado project a strong indication that most of the about 10,000 Mormon polygamists will eventually abandon the dusty, windswept communities of Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah, and head to Texas.

But the barricades and a proliferation of no-trespassing signs are evidence that no mass exodus will happen unless Prophet Jeffs orders his flock to leave the twin towns tucked beneath the stunning Vermillion Cliffs.

Not only does it appear that the FLDS is digging in for a possible confrontation with authorities, concerns are increasing that FLDS members may not pay $1 million in Mohave County, Arizona, and Washington County, Utah, property taxes due later this fall.

Most of the land in the two towns is owned by the United Effort Plan trust, created by fundamentalist Mormons in 1942. The trust holds more than $100 million in real estate. For decades, FLDS leaders have collected money from church members to pay the property taxes.

That arrangement has suddenly changed.

Earlier this year, Jeffs and other FLDS leaders were removed as UEP trustees by a Utah state court, and control of the trust was turned over to a special fiduciary, Salt Lake City accountant Bruce R. Wisan.

When that happened, FLDS members were ordered by Jeffs not to cooperate with Wisan, and that is one reason authorities fear that a standoff could result.

"I have not found any FLDS individuals who will discuss property taxes with me," Wisan says.

"I would hope in the end that reason will emerge victoriously," he says, and taxpayers in the fundamentalist towns will pay up.

The possible tax revolt, the disappearance of FLDS leader Jeffs, the erection of walls around polygamist homes and the construction of the Texas temple have come after New Times published 17 articles on illegalities in the community over the past two and a half years that set the stage (see "Polygamy in Arizona") for authorities to mount pressure on the sect from several directions:

• Earlier this summer, Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith got nine Colorado City men, including Warren Jeffs, indicted by a grand jury on sexual-conduct-with-a-minor charges. Eight of the men were arrested or surrendered to authorities and are now awaiting trial in Kingman. Jeffs, meanwhile, was placed on the FBI's most-wanted list in August.

• The embattled Colorado City Unified School District -- the community's largest single employer -- is expected to be placed in receivership next month at the request of the Arizona Attorney General's Office. The tiny, 300-student school district is more than $1.4 million in debt, and its three top administrators -- all FLDS members -- are under criminal investigation for misuse of school funds.

• Two civil suits alleging sexual, physical and mental abuse were filed last year by former FLDS men against Warren Jeffs in Salt Lake City. This is what led to the removal of Jeffs and the other FLDS leaders as trustees of the United Effort Plan. A power struggle over control of the trust's real estate assets is triggering heated confrontations between FLDS members and former church members.

• Following Utah's lead, Arizona moved recently to strip police certification from two Colorado City police officers for illegally practicing polygamy. The Colorado City police force has come under fire for failing to arrest men -- including a fellow police officer -- who have taken underage girls as plural wives.

It has been half a century since fundamentalist Mormon polygamists have faced such intense government pressure.

But that does not mean state and county authorities are committing enough money and manpower to finally put an end to the FLDS theocracy that has practiced insurrection for decades.

There is only one full-time cop from an outside police force in Colorado City. Mohave County Attorney's Office special investigator Gary Engels is working in an extremely hostile environment where he is considered the enemy by local police and where FLDS fanatics lurk around every corner.

State and county law enforcement could move in more officers at a moment's notice, but many in the area question whether authorities from either state will commit the resources necessary to dismantle a fundamentalist Mormon community that has had free rein for 52 years.

"We can't stop them like this," says Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson, who has been sounding the alarm about underage marriages in Colorado City for more than five years.

Johnson, a former Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy, says there must be a larger commitment by state and county governments toward righting wrongs in Colorado City and Hildale or it will be impossible to bring political and social reform to the insular area.

"You know damn good and well nobody wants to go in there," Johnson says of law enforcement authorities. "Everyone is damn afraid of another Waco."

Even without a significant incursion by state and county police, there is mounting fear that violence may erupt in the remote community where FLDS members hold obedience to their prophet as the first and most important commandment.

"The people I would be afraid of would be the young fanatics that are 100 percent behind Mr. Jeffs," says Mohave County Attorney Smith, who plans to personally prosecute the criminal cases against the Colorado City polygamists.

A July 31 exchange between ex-FLDS member and Colorado City resident Ross Chatwin and a young FLDS man captures the degree of fanaticism instilled in Jeffs' followers. The dialogue, captured on tape, begins with Chatwin asking the man if he knows Warren Jeffs.

"Yes, I do," the FLDS man replies.

"And you'll give him your life?" asks Chatwin.

"I will," replies the man.

"You'll die for him?"

"I will."

"You'd kill somebody for him?"

"I wi-- (pause), I would do what he told me to. Anything he told me to, I would do."

"Like without a doubt there is nothing?" asks Chatwin.

"Without a doubt, I will stand for him."

"You'll kill for him, too?"

"I'll do what he tells me to do."

"Even if it's kill?" asks Chatwin.

"He is inspired by [the] heavenly Father," the FLDS man says. "Whatever he tells me to do, I will do."


On the weekend of July 9, the Mohave County Sheriff's Office launched the largest manhunt for fundamentalist Mormon polygamists in more than half a century. Police swept into Colorado City, going door-to-door looking for eight FLDS men and their leader, Warren Jeffs.

"We sent a few squads up there, and [the polygamists] hid out," says Mohave County Sheriff Tom Sheahan. "They were using women and children as lookouts. We put a lot of pressure on them until they surrendered."

One man was arrested during the sweep, and the other seven turned themselves in over the next several days. Only Prophet Jeffs remains on the lam. The Arizona Attorney General's Office is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to his capture.

Jeffs was indicted by a Mohave County grand jury on June 9 on charges of sexual conduct with a minor and conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor.

Both charges stem from his joining Randolph J. Barlow and an underage girl in a spiritual marriage in early 2002 and his directing the couple to have children. Barlow, 28, was also indicted on June 9 on two counts of sexual assault and one count of sexual conduct with a minor.

A Mohave County grand jury returned five additional felony charges against Jeffs in early July.

Three of the charges are related to Jeffs' conducting the 1998 spiritual marriage of former Colorado City policeman Rodney Hans Holm to 16-year-old Ruth Stubbs. At the time of the ceremony, Holm was 32 and already married to two other women, including Stubbs' older sister. Holm lived with his three wives and 20 children in Hildale.

Holm was convicted of two counts of sexual conduct with a minor and one count of bigamy in a Utah state court in August 2003. He was sentenced to one year in the Washington County jail.

Mohave County is now bringing new charges against Holm. It is adding Jeffs as a co-defendant based on Stubbs' statements to investigators that she and Holm had sex on at least three occasions in Colorado City when she was 16. Stubbs left Holm before the Utah trial and now lives out of state.

The other two felony charges against Jeffs stem from his conducting the 2001 spiritual marriage between then-20-year-old Terry Darger Barlow and 15-year-old Cynthia Palmer and ordering the couple to procreate.

If convicted on all seven felony counts, Jeffs could face up to 14 years in prison. Because the leader polygamists believe is God's only true spokesman faces a possible lengthy prison sentence, many insist that the fundamentalist faithful will not give him up without a fight.

"It all depends on how we catch him," says Mohave County special investigator Engels, who has spent more than a year living in the Colorado City area investigating crimes. "Does he have bodyguards? Yes. Are they armed? Yes. Will they put their lives down for him? Yes."

The cases against Jeffs and the three co-defendants are the strongest of the nine actions, County Attorney Smith says, because either victims or witnesses have appeared before the grand jury or given sworn statements to investigators.

The charges against the other five Colorado City men are based only on birth certificates, marriage records and driver's licenses.

In some of these cases, Smith says, the underage girls have been reluctant to testify because of what they fear would happen to them if they aided in prosecuting an FLDS member. Jeffs is quick to ban any member of the church from religious and societal privileges who cooperates with authorities.

In other cases, plural wives will not testify against their husbands because they also believe that engaging in polygamy assures their religious salvation.

Named as defendants in the five cases are: Dale Evans Barlow, 47, in connection with his 1999 relationship with then-16-year-old Louisa Johnson; Kelly Fischer, 38, based on his relationship in 2000 with then-16-year-old Jenny Lynn Steed; Vergel Bryce Jessop, 44, based on his relationship in 2000 with then-17-year-old Permelia Bringhurst; Donald Robert Barlow, 49, based on his relationship in 2000 with then-17-year-old Laree Steed; and David Romaine Bateman, 48, in connection with his 2001 relationship with then-17-year-old Midge Steed.

Smith says he chose to pursue charges against the FLDS men despite serious philosophical issues in some instances.

"What do you do with the case where you have a 16-year-old girl who got pregnant but who now is 20 or 21 and has three more kids with the guy?" the county attorney says. "Are you going to send him to prison and rip him away from all the kids in the family? Do you want to send that message?"

Smith clearly wants to send that message:

"People are being indicted and having to come to court. Hopefully, that will have a chilling effect to the point that they will think four or five times, not just twice, before marrying any underage brides."

All the defendants except the fugitive Jeffs are represented by Flagstaff attorney Bruce Griffen, considered one of the state's top sex-crimes defense attorneys. Griffen refuses to disclose his defense strategy or who is paying his fees, estimated by sources to already exceed $150,000.

But recent court filings in Bateman's case show that Griffen will argue that the state lacks evidence to prove where the alleged sexual conduct and conspiracy occurred.

"While the Grand Jury was told that Bateman now lives in Colorado City, and that Bateman and Steed both now have Arizona driver's licenses, the Grand Jury was not told where the act of sex . . . occurred," Griffen states in an August 22 motion to dismiss the charges against Bateman.

The Mohave County criminal indictments are the most sweeping legal action against the fundamentalist community since a 1953 raid on the Arizona side of the Short Creek community (now Colorado City and Hildale) ordered by then-Arizona governor Howard Pyle.

Pyle's effort failed to dislodge the Short Creek fundamentalists who numbered fewer than 250 on this side of the state line. The raid proved to be a political disaster for Pyle after photographs of police taking babies from the arms of fathers turned public sentiment in favor of the polygamists. Pyle was soundly defeated in his bid for reelection, and no Arizona governor has sought to uphold the law when it comes to underage cohabitation in the community since.

Current Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano has done little more than place a Child Protective Services worker in Colorado City on a part-time basis.

Utah, which is home to the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City, has issued strong rhetoric against legal abuses among the fundamentalists in Hildale but has done little since convicting Rodney Holm in 2003.

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff has vowed for more than two years that his office would bring criminal charges against Jeffs, whose last known residence was in Hildale, but Shurtleff let Jeffs slip away and that never happened.

The Utah AG's Office has birth records that show Jeffs fathered children with at least two girls who were under 18 years old at the time of conception. In an interview late last year, Shurtleff said he wanted to find stronger cases against Jeffs rather than convicting him on ones that might bring only a short jail sentence.

Shurtleff, like many public officials in Utah, is a member of the mainstream Mormon Church, which assiduously attempts to ignore the fundamentalist Mormons in Colorado City and Hildale. The Salt Lake City church's posture is that it has no connection to the fundamentalists and that it excommunicates anybody who practices polygamy.

Nevertheless, polygamy in Utah and Arizona has roots firmly planted in mainstream Mormon teachings. Mormon Church founder Joseph Smith initiated polygamy as a centerpiece of the theology in the early 19th century. The practice was widely encouraged after his death by his successor, Brigham Young. The Mormon Church banned polygamy in 1890, because the federal government was seeking to disincorporate the church; it was feared that Utah could not gain statehood if the church did not end the practice.

But polygamy continued among some in the mainstream church well into the 20th century. Fundamentalist Mormons embracing what they called "celestial marriage" eventually settled along the isolated Arizona-Utah border in the 1930s.

After Arizona's 1953 raid, the fundamentalists carefully nurtured a public image that family values were paramount in their community. At the same time, the FLDS prophet increased his political power because he could deliver a bloc of several thousand votes to favored politicians.

One politician who benefited from this arrangement was former Mohave County Attorney Bill Ekstrom, who ignored rumors of underage marriages during his 24 years in office. Ekstrom resigned in December 2003, and Smith was appointed in January 2004. Smith, a Republican, won his first term last November.

Smith says the problem of underage marriages in Colorado City was driven home to him by New Times' "Polygamy in Arizona" stories, the bulk of which were published in 2003, and by the best seller Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer published the same year. (New Times' stories are referenced in Krakauer's book.)

The Mohave County Attorney promises to press forward in his effort to stop the sexual assault of underage girls in Colorado City, even if he loses the current set of cases.

"I'm not going to back down or worry about politics or public opinion," he says. "It's my job, it's something that needs to be done. Let the chips fall where they may."


Only one parent showed up for the August 18 meeting of the Colorado City Unified School District's board of governors. It was a shockingly low turnout given that, less than a week earlier, Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard had announced that he planned to place the district in receivership.

"The financial mismanagement of the Colorado City School District is egregious. It is time to put its finances in competent hands," Goddard said at an August 11 news conference where he revealed plans to use a new law passed last spring allowing the state to seize control of financially mismanaged school systems.

Because the district is $1.4 million in debt, teachers' paychecks bounced several times during the last school year. The school board has been accused by the attorney general of excessive spending for equipment and services -- including purchasing a $220,000 airplane -- and for misuse of state property.

Never before has Arizona sought such sweeping action against a school district. In most communities, such an announcement by the AG would bring an angry swarm of parents, teachers and students to the next school board meeting to demand answers. But not in Colorado City, a closed society where most parents and teachers are indoctrinated never to question the actions of all-powerful FLDS officials.

In addition, parents and teachers "don't feel that their opinions or them being present at a school board meeting is going to make any difference," says Michele Chatwin, the only parent who attended the board meeting.

Six weeks after Goddard's news conference, the school board continued to function as usual; the top administrators who wrecked the district's budget still had their jobs.

The Attorney General's Office is expected to formally request that the state Board of Education place the Colorado City school district into receivership at an education board meeting scheduled October 20.

Goddard says he is confident that the education board will approve his request: "I think we have a rock-solid case."

But that does not mean the AG's request is a slam-dunk.

The district is challenging Goddard's action. Ironically, it is using state funds to hire an attorney to fight the receivership request.

If the AG's request is approved, the state Board of Education will appoint a receiver to oversee day-to-day administration of the district. His duties will include handling personnel issues. Three of the district's top administrators -- Superintendent Alvin Barlow, finance manager Jeffrey Jessop and assistant finance manager Oliver Barlow -- are under criminal investigation by the AG's Office for misuse of public funds and could be relieved of duty by the receiver.

For several years, teachers and parents have quietly complained about financial mismanagement of the school district and about widespread discrimination against non-FLDS members and their children.

Serious problems with the district began in July 2000, when Warren Jeffs ordered FLDS members to withdraw about 600 children from the public school and enroll them in private FLDS schools. He also ordered all FLDS teachers to resign from the public school.

At the same time, Jeffs directed key FLDS members to keep their positions on the school board and as top administrators to keep control of the district's $6 million budget. Jeffs ordered FLDS members to have no contact with the remaining parents, teachers and about 300 students left attending the public school.

Most of the students still at the public school were the children of members of a rival fundamentalist Mormon polygamist sect based in the nearby unincorporated community of Centennial Park. Because the rival group does not consider Jeffs its prophet, he decreed the Centennial Park polygamists as among the most evil people in the world.

During the five years that followed Jeffs' withdrawal order, the school board and administrators allowed the district's budget to plunge into the red. At the same time, they paid FLDS members who continued to work as janitors and bus drivers much higher salaries than certified schoolteachers who are members of the Centennial Park sect.

New Times exposed the financial crisis at the school following a four-month investigation that included the review of thousands of pages of district records ("The Wages of Sin," April 10, 2003). Three months later, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne asked the state Auditor General's Office to begin a special review of the district's finances. The auditor general has not yet released his findings.

Last spring, in the wake of the Colorado City teachers' paychecks bouncing, the Arizona Legislature passed the receivership bill, giving the AG and the state Board of Education the power to seize financially failing school districts.

Then came a new wrinkle, which demonstrates that even those who have been disenfranchised by the fundamentalist church are resentful of outsiders.

Now that the state finally has the power to remove FLDS members from key school district positions, Centennial Park residents -- worried that a school district takeover would be a step toward the state's ending polygamy, which they also practice -- now claim that the school board and administrators are getting unfairly attacked.

"Suddenly people are defending the school district," Michele Chatwin says. "They are saying the horrible AG is coming. Now, all of our concerns about the district's financial operations are being swept aside because the district is under attack."

New Times interviewed several teachers and staff members outside the school recently. None would give his name, and most expressed skepticism that anything positive would come out of the state's intervention.

One middle-aged man, who sat in a van with a teenage girl, concluded that the AG's action has "all been trumped up by the media."


Underage girls coerced into "celestial marriages" with much older men are not the only ones exploited by the FLDS.

Boys who grow up in Colorado City and Hildale are also victimized. In fact, two lawsuits filed in 2004 by young FLDS men have delivered the most powerful blow yet to the fundamentalist church.

Named as a defendant in the suits, Prophet Warren Jeffs did not respond to their allegations. His Salt Lake City attorney, Rodney Parker, withdrew from the cases last December.

Jeffs' failure to defend himself led to his removal as president of the United Effort Plan trust last June. That is when the Utah state court appointed Bruce Wisan as special fiduciary of the trust.

The fact that Jeffs failed to show up in court -- or even respond to the suits -- cost the prophet a fortune.

The UEP trust controls more than $100 million in businesses and real estate in Colorado City, Hildale and Crestone, British Columbia (the site of another FLDS enclave).

Jeffs' control of the trust not only provided him access to the millions of dollars in real estate and property, it gave him legal dictatorial power over FLDS members living on land owned by the UEP. Any FLDS member residing on UEP land who dared to question Jeffs could be legally evicted from his home. With that often came banishment from the community and forfeiture of his wives and children -- not to mention eternal damnation.

As for the lawsuits, one alleges that Jeffs sodomized his nephew when he was a little boy.

Brent Jeffs, now 21, maintains in his July 2004 suit in a Utah state court that Warren Jeffs sodomized him when he was 5 and 6 years old.

Brent Jeffs accuses Warren and two other uncles -- Blaine Jeffs and Leslie Jeffs -- of raping him repeatedly in the basement of Alta Academy, an FLDS school in Salt Lake City where Warren was then principal.

The suit offers a chilling narrative of what allegedly transpired:

"On repeated occasions the Jeffs Brothers would enter the basement room where the children were located, find [Brent Jeffs], and instruct him to come to a nearby lavatory. While in the lavatory, the Jeffs Brothers confronted [Brent] and instructed him to remove his clothes. After [Brent] undressed himself, one or more of the three defendants told him that it was God's will that he submit to them. The Jeffs Brothers would take turns forcing their erect penises into [Brent's] anus.

"Warren Jeffs told [Brent] that these sodomizing activities were a way for [Brent] to become 'a man.' Warren Jeffs admonished [Brent] that it was God's will that [Brent] not tell anyone -- particularly his parents -- about said activities."

In fact, Warren Jeffs said Brent would be cast into hell if he revealed what was going on, the suit contends.

Warren Jeffs, the suit claims, had been committing assaults on young boys since he was 14 years old.

Despite Warren's admonitions, complaints that Warren and his brothers were raping young boys did reach FLDS leaders, including Warren's late father, Rulon Jeffs, FLDS Prophet at the time. The suit says these complaints were ignored, thereby allowing Warren to portray himself to the community as a "chaste" and "honorable" religious leader.

Brent Jeffs, the suit states, decided to break his silence in the aftermath of the January 2002 suicide of his brother, Clayne, who also was sexually assaulted by the three Jeffses.

In the other suit, filed in August 2004 in a Utah state court, more than a dozen young men allege that Warren Jeffs and FLDS leaders forced them to leave town to reduce competition for wives in the polygamist society.

The suit alleges that Jeffs and FLDS leaders reduced the male population in the communities by "systematically expelling young males" from Colorado City and Hildale.

While he was avoiding the lawsuits, Jeffs ordered the transfer of valuable UEP assets to FLDS insiders to shield the land and property from possible monetary judgments, according to pleadings filed by lawyers representing Brent Jeffs and the young men expelled from the enclave.

In September and October 2004, the UEP announced it was selling three-plus acres of land beneath the trust's most valuable business asset, Western Precision Inc., to the FLDS owners of the company for $25,000. The land is worth about $140,000.

A source familiar with the transaction says Jeffs, as the religious leader of Western Precision's owners, would retain control of the land and, for that matter, the entire $3 million company after the transfer.

Western Precision operates a 52,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Hildale that builds state-of-the-art machine tools. It has a wide range of customers, including the Department of Defense, and employs more than 100 workers.

In another September 2004 deal, the UEP transferred 1,311 acres of ranch land a few miles northwest of Colorado City to a company allegedly controlled by FLDS insiders. Once again, no property appeared to have been removed from Jeffs' control, even though the land was sold for a purported $4 million.

The flurry of shady UEP real estate transactions set the stage for a remarkable development when lawyers for Brent Jeffs and the dispossessed young men asked a Utah state court in February to remove the UEP trustees, including Warren Jeffs.

The request meant that the plaintiffs in the two lawsuits were willing to sacrifice their chance to take control of the rich UEP trust. Roger Hoole, a Salt Lake City attorney representing the plaintiffs in the suit, says his clients' main objective is protecting the UEP trust for the benefit of current and former rank-and-file church families.

The plaintiffs' request for removing the UEP trustees led to the Arizona and Utah attorneys general intervening in the cases.

Both states supported removal of the FLDS trustees. A Utah state court in June stripped Jeffs and other FLDS leaders of their trusteeships and appointed Wisan as special fiduciary. The FLDS prophet's ironclad control over the UEP trust -- which started 63 years ago with the ownership of a few acres and grew to a $100 million empire -- was over.

Wisan immediately initiated legal action to at least temporarily stop the sale of the Western Precision property and the 1,300 acres of ranch land to FLDS insiders. A Utah state court is scheduled to consider the disposition of the property later this year.

The bigger problem for Wisan, though, will be raising the more than $1 million in property taxes from FLDS families in Colorado City and Hildale after Warren Jeffs has ordered FLDS faithful not to cooperate with him.

Wisan says he hopes the taxes will be paid. But if they are not, what will tax officials do to collect the levies?

Some authorities suspect that the potential for a property tax boycott is one reason the walls have gone up around homes in the fundamentalist towns, though it would be years before the property could be seized for non-payment.

Short of eventual seizures, attempting to get past those walls and collect the taxes in person could be difficult and potentially dangerous for county officials.


Despite no longer being in legal control of the United Effort Plan and its assets, FLDS leaders have continued to oversee the demolition of UEP-owned buildings and the evictions of dissidents from UEP-owned houses.

And the Colorado City Marshal's Office, the local police force, has been right there to enforce the orders of Warren Jeffs and his lieutenants.

In one instance, Colorado City police did not obtain a court order before proceeding with a July 24 eviction.

They arrested the occupant of the home, Andrew Chatwin, on trespassing charges, and the local cops then assisted FLDS members in removing the personal property of Chatwin and his family from the house.

FLDS members spent several days rebuilding the interior of the house to "purify" it for an occupant approved by the prophet. In church theology, Chatwin is the worst kind of sinner -- someone who has willingly left the church after receiving its teachings and baptism. Such defectors, along with those kicked out of the church by FLDS leaders, are called apostates.

"They started working on the house at 12:30 that night and they stayed on it three days until they moved somebody else in," Chatwin says.

City-owned garbage trucks were dispatched to the site to haul away debris ripped from the UEP-owned structure.

Chatwin says the FLDS routinely moves families out of houses without the permission of Wisan, the court-ordered legal fiduciary of the UEP trust.

His eviction, Chatwin says, proves that UEP trustees have no intention of submitting to their court-ordered removal.

That the Colorado City cops are helping the ousted UEP trustees enforce their mandates is no surprise. They have long put religious rules ahead of civil law.

For instance, the local police force traditionally brushes aside complaints of incest and rape, court and police records show.

After decades of inaction, Arizona law enforcement officials are attempting to rein in the renegade Colorado City department by stripping polygamist officers of their state law enforcement certifications.

Two Colorado City policemen, including longtime Chief of Police Sam Roundy, are expected to have their Arizona police certifications rescinded for violating their oath to uphold the Arizona Constitution.

Neither man appeared at hearings before the Arizona Peace Officers Standards and Training Board recently. A formal vote of the AZ POST to strip them of the police certifications is expected next month.

The Arizona Constitution bans polygamy. Roundy and Officer Vance Barlow each has three wives and more than 20 children. Both already had been stripped of their police certifications in Utah because they are bigamists.

Roundy told Utah police that he knew Ruth Stubbs was fellow officer Rodney Holm's plural wife and that he knew the underage girl was pregnant. He said he considered the marriage legitimate because Stubbs' father had given permission.

"I thought everything was hunky-dory," Roundy told a Utah investigator during an October 2004 interview.

Rather than decertifying polygamist cops a couple at a time, Arizona Attorney General Goddard says he is seeking ways to eliminate or greatly reduce the powers of the Colorado City police department. Goddard last month asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the Colorado City police because of repeated civil rights violations.

"The bigger issue is whether the entire police force can be placed on probation," Goddard says.

Mohave County Sheriff Tom Sheahan says the Colorado City cops have been "less than helpful" to him and his deputies on several occasions and that he supports a Justice Department investigation.

"The ideal situation," Sheahan says, "would be for the whole Colorado City police department to just go away."


The largest polygamist community in North America is under siege. There is action by both Utah and Arizona against the Colorado City police force. There are the indictments against fugitive Prophet Warren Jeffs and eight other FLDS men. There is the potential takeover of the school district by Arizona Attorney General Goddard. There is the removal of fundamentalist church members as trustees of the UEP, the FLDS' richest asset.

And if that is not enough, there are the lawsuits against Jeffs by the young men in the community, one of which accuses the prophet of continuously raping his nephew.

The result of all this is that some townspeople in Colorado City and Hildale are barricading themselves inside their houses, while others have headed to Texas to form a new fundamentalist community.

Will the polygamists inside their walled compounds refuse to pay their taxes and dare authorities to confront them? Will Warren Jeffs, wherever he is, order them to keep authorities out no matter what the consequences?

Will Jeffs and his followers -- who have no intention of abandoning polygamy, which includes "celestial marriages" of FLDS members to underage girls -- harbor fugitives sought for prosecution behind those walls?

Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson worries not so much about a massive standoff between the FLDS and outside authorities as he does about a random act of violence. He is worried that an FLDS leader will order one of the young zealots in the towns to confront a police officer or other critic, and all hell will break loose.

"I've always thought one of the young FLDS kids might shoot someone," Johnson says.

Meanwhile, Mohave County Attorney's investigator Gary Engels holds a lone vigil in the double-wide in Colorado City that he calls an office.

Engels has no backup in the area. The closest Mohave County Sheriff's Office substation is more than an hour away in Beaver Dam. Colorado City is more than 200 miles from the county seat in Kingman.

Both Sheriff Sheahan and AG Goddard contend they cannot afford to send full-time backup officers to Colorado City. They talk about the need for state or federal grants to finance additional officers for the Mohave County Sheriff's Office.

As for Engels, he is not about to abandon his post.

Mohave County Attorney "Matt Smith and I were the first ones to ever get any charges against the prophet out here," he says proudly.

This lone ranger hopes the cavalry will come if he needs it.

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1 comments
jon49417
jon49417

1/2 a century?  Waco was the same flavor whacko

 
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