We remember Debra Weyermann from our long-ago days trolling for stories for the Sierra Vista and Bisbee dailies down at the Mexican border. She was known as "D" in those days when she covered the courts for the Arizona Daily Star, and did a bang-up job.
Fast-forward to now: Weyermann's newly published book, Answer Them Nothing, Bringing Down the Polygamous Empire of Warren Jeffs is a worthy read, even if you already know the outlines of the creepy tale of incest, rape, greed, power, and religious fanaticism..
Weyermann writes crisply and occasionally poetically and is at her best when recounting the chilling anecdotal accounts of heroic characters such as Ruth Stubbs, a young woman who finally escaped from the bizarre cult after enduring a nightmarish existence under the tyrannical leadership of now-imprisoned "prophet" Jeffs.
We were especially pleased by the extensive (and well-deserved) credit that Weyermann gives to our friend and former colleague John "The Senator" Dougherty, who broke the FLDS scandal wide-open in this paper.
Weyermann points to Dougherty's March 2003 groundbreaking story, "Bound by Fear: Polygamy in Arizona," which blew the proverbial lid off one of Arizona's dirty little secrets, and how then-Governor Janet Napolitano was continuing to pretty much ignore the substantial evidence of forced marriages (of underage girls), welfare fraud, and all manner of other wrongdoing.
Napolitano, as most of our readers probably know, is currently the head of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Weyermann writes: "Week after week, year after year, Dougherty and New Times punished Arizona legislators with eye-popping accounts of FLDS bad behavior they'd studiously ignored since the 1953 raid. Special cattle prodding was directed at Napolitano."
She also points out, "With the exception of Dougherty and [Channel 3 TV reporter] Mike Watkiss...the entire Arizona press corps cleaved to tried-and-true, post-`53 raid policy of pretending Colorado City didn't exist, not even in a sunny National Geographic kind of way.
"The Arizona Republic, the state's paper of record, seemed bored by Dougherty and Watkiss' continuing coverage,..Addressing the absence of FLDS press coverage in Arizona, Watkiss nearly shouted, `It's too hard to cover these complicated stories,' in a tone dripping with angry sarcasm."
Weyermann's book is published by the Chicago Review Press.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.