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Bound by Fear: Polygamy in Arizona

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Rodney Holm later apologized for the beating, Williams said, reportedly telling his brother, Jason Williams, that the ambush got out of hand.

Ruth Stubbs told state investigators during her January 14, 2002, interview that she asked her husband if he was involved in the Williams beating and Rodney confirmed he had been there.

"He said, I might have kicked his butt once or something,'" Ruth Stubbs told state investigators.

The Colorado City police did not return phone calls from New Times seeking comment. Rodney Holm declined to comment on the Williams matter.

Robert Williams is among many young men who have been harassed after showing interest in teenage girls. The harassment has included not only beatings, but illegal searches of vehicles and orders to stay out of town, according to state records and numerous sources in Colorado City.

In fact, the primary purpose of local police, historian Bistline and others say, is to get rid of troublesome young men to ensure a surplus of teenage girls for polygamous marriages. In other words, the polygamists, many of them middle-age and elderly, want to keep the young girls for themselves.

"I've known 13-year-old boys who have been driven off and end up sleeping in the rafters of a barn," Craig Chatwin says.

Families routinely drive their penniless young sons from home on the command of the Prophet.

The teenage boys often spiral downward into drugs, alcohol and homelessness exactly the hell that the religion predicted would befall them if they failed to subscribe to its teachings.

"I bid thee farewell," is what Ladell Pipkin, 26, said the late Prophet Rulon Jeffs told him when he was ordered to leave town a few years ago.

Pipkin is one of 37 children. His father was 54 when he married Pipkin's mother at age 19. She was one of five wives.

New Times found Pipkin living out of his decrepit SUV on an empty lot in north Phoenix. Covered with scabs and pulling hair from his face, he appeared strung out on crystal meth.

Pipkin could barely put together a sentence. But paperwork in his possession showed he had graduated from Colorado City High School in 1995, before being sent on his way.

Anti-polygamy activist Flora Jessop assisted Pipkin, getting him enrolled at Teen Challenge, a youth treatment center. The young man disappeared January 5, after leaving a disturbing, handwritten letter on his bed.

"Please help me," the letter begins. "It's just to [sic] darn late, Ladell. You have messed up everybody's life. You are a mass murderer. You are just like a Hitler. Just what in the world were you thinking when you tried to challenge God? You have killed so darn many people."

He then expresses regret at how many chances he had to pull his life together, including a second baptism. "I should just commit suicide right on the spot. I am damned for all eternity for ever and ever."

Phoenix police found Pipkin six weeks later wandering downtown streets, disheveled and disoriented. Pennie Peterson said she picked him up from police and arranged to have him sent to St. George, Utah, to live with an uncle.

"He stunk so bad I had to put a blanket down over the seat of the car," Peterson said. "His brain was gone."

Dissenters Evicted

Julia Thomas had a beautiful herb and flower garden around her Colorado City home.

It was a home she had built with her own hands, much to the dismay of religious leaders who don't like women displaying such independence.

She loved her little spot on Earth as much as she cherished the fundamentalist Mormon creed.

"I made a covenant a long time ago that I would give my life to the gospel," Thomas said. "I'm doing it."

The 70-something Thomas has more than 70 grandchildren and great-grandchildren. During her lifetime in Colorado City, she has seen tumultuous events in her religion. But nothing like the split that occurred 20 years ago.

At that time, a battle emerged over whether a council of seven men should lead the FLDS, or whether all power should rest with one.

Thomas opted for the council of seven, but her side lost the battle when former Prophet Leroy Johnson assumed control of the FLDS in 1984.

The congregation in Colorado City has been ruled by a single man ever since. After Uncle Leroy came the Jeffses, Rulon and then Warren. Those who had opposed one-man rule soon found themselves in trouble, even if they were still faithful to the religious doctrine.

Like many FLDS faithful, Thomas had built her home on United Effort Plan property under the assumption that she could remain as long as she wished. But soon after Rulon Jeffs assumed power in 1986, the religion notified everyone living on UEP land that they were "tenants at will" and could be evicted.

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John Dougherty
Contact: John Dougherty