Bound by Fear: Polygamy in Arizona

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Landscaping around homes and businesses is rare. Junk is piled up everywhere everything from busted cranes to airplanes to rusting trucks and tractors to discarded appliances.

A couple of feedlots packed with cows are in the center of town. The lots are adjacent to Short Creek and appear to be polluting the stream. Illegal dumps litter the creek's embankments. An asphalt plant where young children are sometimes operating heavy machinery belches thick black smoke into the sky.

The town struggles to provide basic services. Water is limited, probably because Colorado City's distribution system loses so much of it from leaky pipes. Drinking water is laced with high levels of radon. No wonder that 40 percent of the town's residents are delinquent in paying water bills.

There's a brown cloud over the town from smoke from wood-burning stoves.

The town's finances are threatened by an unwise investment in a $20 million gas-fired power plant in default on its construction bonds. The plant was built in neighboring Hildale, but Colorado City is a co-owner. It is frequently shut down because of equipment problems and because it is cheaper to purchase electricity from other sources.

There is lax enforcement of an array of public safety laws. Police ignore the widespread failure to use car seats in a population dominated by children. Police also allow kids without helmets to roar up and down the town's streets on unlicensed, all-terrain vehicles.

The town does operate a library and manages to get garbage picked up regularly.

And it has paved runways at the 1992 Arizona Airport of the Year, which is testament to the town's skill at securing state and federal grants rather than any indication of bustling activity. There are only a couple of planes parked at the airstrip that many believe was built to allow a former Prophet to fly in a Lear jet back and forth from a home in Salt Lake City.

A Colorado City resident most of his life, Ben Bistline, 72, says town residents are resigned rather than content. Bistline says anyone who challenges council authority even by simply raising questions in a public setting risks getting evicted from United Effort Plan land and losing family, home and job.

Boys Forced Out

Seventeen-year-old Robert Williams had a crush on a high school classmate named Jamie Holm.

They had chatted for a couple of months but never went on a date. That's forbidden in Colorado City. Jamie's father, Con Holm, soon learned that his daughter was flirting with a young man, and met Williams one day at the public school.

Con Holm told Williams he could see his daughter, as long as other people were around. A couple of months later, Jamie Holm gave Williams a ride home in her vehicle. Con Holm saw the couple driving down the street and pulled his daughter over, reached into the car and yanked Williams out.

"He grabbed me by the shirt and slammed me up against the car and hit me a couple of times," Robert Williams told attorney general's investigators in a May 29, 2001, taped interview obtained by New Times.

Williams said Con Holm threatened him with a more severe beating if he ever caught him with his daughter again.

A couple of months later, Williams drove by Jaime Holm's house, hoping to see her. Williams didn't see her, but Con Holm saw Williams.

A few minutes later, Con Holm rammed an all-terrain vehicle into Williams' truck, bringing the vehicle to a stop.

Con, Williams said, opened the truck door and an octopus of arms reached in and pulled him from the vehicle. Holm had gathered a group of a dozen men to help in the ambush.

"Six hands came in after me and hit me quite a few times," Williams related.

The beating continued until one of Williams' friends showed up with a baseball bat. Con Holm got control of the bat and struck Williams' ally across his shoulder, leaving a deep bruise, Williams told investigators.

Among the dozen men involved in the attack, Williams said, was Holm's brother, Colorado City policeman Rodney Holm.

Williams eventually got home and called the Washington County Sheriff's Office, not trusting the Colorado City Police Department to handle the matter, especially since Rodney Holm had been involved in the attack.

Washington County later filed charges against Con Holm, who pleaded no contest to simple assault in February 1996 and was sentenced to three months in jail.

Williams said he later learned that Rodney Holm and another officer, Clark Cooke, knew about the ambush ahead of time.

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John Dougherty
Contact: John Dougherty