Bound by Fear: Polygamy in Arizona

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AHCCCS eligibility is determined by combining the income of husband and wife and considering how much money is necessary to pay for the medical care of the children produced by that relationship. The process is repeated for each of the husband's wives and children.

As might be expected, Colorado City AHCCCS medical expenses are far above the state average in pediatric care. However, expenses for other health-care categories are below the average.

Colorado City residents are increasingly tapping state child-care assistance programs.

In mid-1998, there were no children receiving child-care benefits in Colorado City. By the end of last September, 46 families with 182 children were receiving state benefits. The average monthly payment per child was $247 or about $540,000 a year.

The benefits typically are paid to state-certified day-care centers. DES officials said the benefits also can be paid to relatives of the parents, such as aunts.

In many cases, men in Colorado City are married to sisters, such as Rodney Holm's marriage to Ruth and Suzie Stubbs.

An aunt, who is also a wife, could be eligible to receive child-care benefits by taking care of the children of a sister while the mother and father are working or enrolled in school. It is unknown if this is occurring in Colorado City, DES officials said.

Young Kids Abused

While Colorado City police respected fellow cop Rodney Holm's spiritual marriage to Ruth Stubbs and winked at his apparently breaking the law by sleeping with the 16-year-old girl, Utah authorities didn't see it the same way and leveled felony charges against Holm.

Colorado City Marshal Sam Roundy, a polygamist, did not return a phone call seeking comment about Rodney Holm, who has since been transferred to the town's public works department at the same salary pending the outcome of his Utah criminal trial.

All along, Ruth and Rodney had kept their marriage secret when police from outside the area came to town. The couple would ignore each other if Rodney happened to bring outsider cops to the gas station-deli where Ruth worked.

"He says that he could get into trouble for him being a cop because he was married to somebody younger than 18," Ruth told attorney general's investigators.

He was so worried, Ruth said, that he told her "not to come outside and kiss him goodbye" because he was afraid someone might be taking photographs.

For that reason and others, the pressure of the polygamous marriage on Ruth Stubbs finally reached a breaking point. On December 9, 2001, Ruth gathered up her children and fled Colorado City. She moved into her sister's house in Phoenix.

Ten days later, she filed a remarkable affidavit in Maricopa County Superior Court seeking emergency child custody. The notarized document describes horrific living conditions for herself and the 20 children in the household:

"At the age of sixteen I was pressured to marry Rodney H. Holm, under the rule of the [FLDS] church. Since that time, I have lived in a controlling and abusive environment common in the community. The sister-wives' were physically and emotionally abusive to both myself and my children. I have scars on my face from one beating. Children were beaten and locked in rooms. On several occasions, younger children would be smothered by one of the mothers until they choked or gasped for air. . . . I was required to work and leave my children with the other 18 in the care of the other two mothers."

Ruth Stubbs continued describing general conditions in the community: "Incest is common. Marriages are arranged between close relatives including stepsiblings. Wives are required to submit fully to the husband, to the extent that permission had to be granted for every move, including trips to the grocery store and doctor.

"Punishment is severe for all who are disobedient, including beating, shunning and expulsion to a community in Canada for retraining. All children were removed from the public schools by Rulon Jeffs and placed in a church school for training. Children are not permitted to have education beyond the 8th grade.

"My husband' has threatened to take my children back to be raised with the other 18 children by his two other wives. He has also suggested that we give the children to the Prophet,' Warren Jeffs, to raise.

"It is not uncommon for children to be taken from their mothers by a Prophet' and transported to Salt Lake City for placement with more deserving' families.

"I fear that should my husband' be given custody or unsupervised parenting time with the children, they will be injured or otherwise harmed or that he will abscond with them and I will never see them again."

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John Dougherty
Contact: John Dougherty