Former plural wife in Utah seeks birth certificates for children born in secrecy in South Dakota
By Nate Carlisle The Salt Lake Tribune
Published May 10, 2017 12:54 pm
Polygamy • Tale of secret births sheds light on practices at the South Dakota FLDS compound.
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This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The first daughter was born at 1:50 p.m. on a windy day at the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints compound in South Dakota. It was late June 2008.
The second daughter was born at the compound in September 2010, her mother says. Like her older sister, no one told South Dakota authorities when she was born, and no one issued her a birth certificate.
The mother, Sarah Allred, says the secrecy was on the orders of FLDS President Warren Jeffs, who ran the polygamous church from its base in Hildale, Utah, before being sent to prison in Texas for sexually abusing underage girls he married.
"We were told we were not allowed to get South Dakota birth certificates because Warren did not want people to know anything about South Dakota," Allred said Friday in an interview.
Allred's tale of secret births at the FLDS compound near Pringle, S.D., answers some questions about what has gone on there, though it has not necessarily eased frustrations for people who live nearby.
"I see it as an absolute, deliberate choice of not having anyone with a birth certificate," South Dakota Rep. Tim Goodwin said in a telephone interview Thursday, "because if they decide to dispose of that person, they never existed."
Last month, Goodwin, whose district includes the compound, cited the absence of any birth or death records there as one reason that the state's Legislature should launch an investigation of the property and its happenings. His colleagues, however, opted not to include the compound in its summer study topics.
South Dakota law says applications for birth certificates are supposed to be filed with the state's Department of Vital Records within seven days of a child being born. However, there is no penalty for not complying. Goodwin said penalties are something the Legislature may have to consider.
Meanwhile, Allred, 37, is now in Utah while pursuing for her two daughters what is supposed to be the first government paperwork Americans are issued, and from which things like Social Security numbers, passports, drivers licenses and the ability to find employment are predicated.
Roger Hoole, a Salt Lake County attorney who has been assisting Allred, said the two children don't even possess documentation to show they were born in the United States or are in the country legally.
"In 30 years this is one of the most complex and challenging things I've ever done," Hoole said. "We just haven't had records for these children."
• Secrecy ruled at compound
Allred on Friday discussed with The Salt Lake Tribune how her children came to be without birth certificates. Other parts of her story she is saving for a book she is writing. Some of her story also is told in Utah court records filed when she petitioned for divorce from her husband.
In one court document, she said she was "assigned" to marry Richard S. Allred. They were legally married in Utah's Washington County in December 1998. She was 18. The groom was 21.
Richard Allred has an impressive polygamy pedigree. He is the grandson of Rulon Allred, the late prophet of the polygamous Apostolic United Brethren. The grandson, however, grew up in the FLDS.
On the maternal and paternal sides of his family, Richard Allred is related to FLDS President Warren Jeffs. In addition to Sarah, Richard Allred married four other spiritual, wives, including Jeffs' daughter Rachel. Richard Allred's brother, David S. Allred, is the person who purchased the FLDS compounds in South Dakota and Texas.
Sarah and Richard Allred have six children in all. They gave their first three children the last name Jeffs at Warren Jeffs' direction, according to documents the mother filed in a Utah court.
In December 2006, Sarah Allred wrote in one court petition, she and her husband were "instructed" to move to the compound in South Dakota. Richard was the bishop for most of their time there, Sarah said on Friday.
It was in a birthing center there that her two youngest children, both girls, were born. They were delivered, Sarah said, by a midwife who was not licensed with the state of South Dakota again because Jeffs didn't want anyone to know what was happening at the compound, which he dubbed "R23."
"R23 was actually one of Warren's prizes," Sarah said. "He kept it pretty secret and pretty low profile. They tried to keep it a secret a lot longer and went to greater lengths to keep it a secret. So the whole time that anybody lived on that place, there were very few people there at one time."
Sarah said she knows of 13 other children born at the compound from 2006 until she left in 2012, including four others born to Richard's spiritual wives.
All of those 13 children have birth certificates, Sarah said. But their mothers all reported the children were born at the birthing clinic in Hildale, Utah, which is the FLDS' traditional home base, or other locations where the FLDS own property, she added.
In Utah, birth certificates are issued by a division of the Utah Department of Health. A department spokesman, Tom Hudachko, said last week that the department has not received any reports of births being fraudulently reported by FLDS followers.
Sarah said she had too much of a conscience to lie about where her children were born. Her children were the source of some other conflicts with FLDS leaders, too, she said.
One of her older daughters had kidney problems beginning at age 3. That kidney was eventually removed when the girl was 8, Sarah said, though FLDS leaders always discouraged taking the girl to doctors.
"They just sent men over to give her a blessing," Sarah said.
Sarah continued taking her daughter to doctors. The mother said when she couldn't find a South Dakota doctor who would treat the symptoms of someone so young, she drove her daughter to Primary Children's Hospital in Salt Lake City. Jeffs preaches a communal form of living where followers share their earnings and assets with the church and followers receive back what they need, but Sarah said FLDS leaders refused to pay for the daughter's bills from Primary Children's, leaving Sarah saddled with debt and poor credit that still follows her.
• Sent away
Sarah's otherwise loyal stance toward the church was not rewarded. She was sent away from the FLDS in March 2012 and told to '' 'repent alone at afar' for reasons that I do not understand," she wrote in a court petition. On Friday, she said FLDS leaders saw her seeking treatment for her daughter as disobedience, but that was only one factor in her eviction. She declined to elaborate on the other factors.
In an effort to prove her obedience and be allowed back to her family, Sarah followed instructions. She left alone and did not contact her children. Before she left, men from the FLDS destroyed any church records of her two daughters being born there.
Sarah said she soon realized her children needed her and her them. She spent two years trying to find the children. In summer 2014, she found them living with FLDS caretakers in Hildale and adjoining Colorado City, Ariz. With the help of law enforcement, she served custody papers on FLDS members and took her children home with her.
The mother and children have been living in northern Utah, according to court records. Richard Allred has not responded to any of the court petitions for custody, child support or divorce. Sarah Allred has told the court she has not spoken to him since she left South Dakota and does not know where he is.
On Sept. 30, Utah 1st District Judge Brandon Maynard granted Sarah Allred a divorce from her husband. In a separate ruling issued that day, Maynard also granted the mother's petition to change the surnames of the three oldest children to from Jeffs to Allred.
But Sarah Allred still is pursuing birth certificates for her two youngest children.
South Dakota law provides a process for establishing undocumented births. Applicants must be able to demonstrate through documents such as census, hospital, church or school records all the information that would go on a birth certificate. Witness statements cannot be used, the law says.
Sarah Allred doesn't have all those records. So last week, she sent what documents she does have to a South Dakota court to ask a judge to order the Department of Vital Records to issue the birth certificates. It is not clear when any judge will consider the case.
Being without birth certificates prevented the two girls from being allowed to enroll in Head Start programs, Sarah said. But the school districts in Utah's Box Elder and Cache counties have been understanding about their situation and have allowed the girls to enter elementary school. State agencies and hospitals in Utah have been understanding, too, she said. But she knows that going without birth certificates will pose long-term problems for the girls.
"I don't feel anger. I feel frustration," Sarah said. "I can't tell you how much, for how long, I have tried to get" the birth certificates.
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