Longform

Bound by Fear: Polygamy in Arizona

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Peterson knows well the difficulties faced by young girls trying to flee the town, having experienced the same turmoil 15 years ago when she fled initially to Las Vegas.

"To come out . . . is like going into the twilight zone," she says. "It's scary."

Just weeks before her child-custody case in Maricopa County was to be settled late last year, Ruth moved in with another sister back in Colorado City. She had left the town 10 months earlier with two children, and returned with three -- the last also Rodney Holm's child.

A lifetime of religious indoctrination that demands strict obedience is not easily shaken.

"They still have control and power over her and can still talk her into whatever," Peterson says.

Her child-custody case has been moved to Washington County, Utah -- where the FLDS has more often than not prevailed in such matters. But Rodney Holm says he is not going to challenge Ruth over custody of the children.

Last December, Ruth hid from Utah authorities attempting to serve her a subpoena to testify in a preliminary hearing in the criminal case against Rodney.

Now that she had gone back, Ruth wasn't about to step into a courtroom full of FLDS faithful and testify against the man the Prophet had sealed her to for eternity. And Rodney doesn't expect her to cooperate with prosecutors in the trial later this year.

"My understanding is she is determined to not testify," he says.

Ruth has already gotten herself in big enough trouble; her interview with state investigators will not soon be forgotten by the FLDS. In fact, it is doubtful she can ever live down her sins.

"What she did is the worst crime that she could do [in the community]," Peterson says. "That is, she talked about their religion and exposed their secrets."

All because the Prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wouldn't let her marry the boy she loved who lived down the street

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John Dougherty
Contact: John Dougherty