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Police help one of Warren Jeffs' wives flee polygamous community

Published October 12, 2011 10:01 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Washington County sheriff's deputies helped one of the wives of polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs leave the sect's home base community along the Utah-Arizona border Monday.

The 25-year-old woman left a home in Colorado City, Ariz., and went in another home in Hildale, Utah, said sheriff's Detective Nate Abbott. Deputies arrived on a "keep the peace" call about 3 p.m., Abbott said.

"She asked for assistance in leaving the community, and a deputy responded and facilitated that request," he said.

The Washington County Attorney's Office is investigating, but it was not immediately clear Tuesday if any charges might be filed, said County Attorney Brock Belnap.

The woman had been living with her parents, and ran to the home of Willie Jessop, former spokesman for the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, who currently supports a rival seeking to replace Jeffs as prophet, said Isaac Wyler, a former sect member who still lives in the community.

The sheriff's deputies helped diffuse what had become a standoff with FLDS men outside Jessop's office, Wyler said, adding that the woman was taken to a shelter.

Jessop declined to provide details about the situation.

"It's all about the welfare of a girl who sought help," Jessop said. "We're keeping this focused on what's in the best interest of the young lady."

Jeffs, 55, has at least 78 plural wives, according to court documents. In August, he was convicted in Texas of sexually assaulting two of those wives when they were ages 12 and 15. According to evidence prosecutors presented at trial, Jeffs "trained" his wives to be comfortable naked and participate in group sex. He frequently moved them to "lands of refuge" like the group's Yearning for Zion Ranch in Texas or to "houses of hiding" scattered throughout the West.

Very few, if any, of the women he has taken as wives are known to have left the community.


Twitter: @lwhitehurst




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