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The eviction of a polygamous sect woman who vowed support for a challenger in an internal power struggle last week could affect the sect leaders' case for control over their communal property trust.
Arizona police are seeking to serve high-ranking Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints bishop Lyle Jeffs with an injunction against harassment, and serve a protective order against his brother, Alan Jeffs, according to Mohave County sheriff's Sgt. Mike Hoggard.
The orders come at the request of 26-year-old Ruth Steed, who said Lyle Jeffs ordered her evicted from her Colorado City, Ariz., home after she affirmed her commitment to her husband, William E. Jessop.
Steed's request for legal protection is unusual, said former church member and Hildale resident Ezra Draper.
"It's a landmark step," he said. "Quite frankly, typically a woman won't make this kind of stand. I think it's commendable, it's courageous and it sets a precedent."
Steed had been living in a basement apartment in the home of 61-year-old Alan Jeffs, according to a police report. She came home on April 15 to find her things tossed out onto the lawn, she wrote in Arizona court documents.
Like most homes and land in the twin towns of Colorado City and Hildale, Utah, the house is part of the sect's approximately $110 million communal property trust, which was taken over by the state of Utah in 2005. Attorneys will bring up the eviction in the court battle to keep the trust from coming back under sect leaders' control, said Bruce Wisan, the court-appointed trust administrator.
"It is a demonstration of what we think will happen in the community if the Corporation of the President is in charge of the trust," Wisan said. "We believe the trust will become an abusive institution of the COP."
Wisan said he is prevented by court order from making changes to the trust, including those that could help Steed.
Jessop, 41, is seeking to replace jailed leader Warren S. Jeffs as head of the Corporation of the President. Church leaders, including Warren Jeffs' brother Lyle, are fighting Jessop's claim in a struggle that could soon come before a judge.
And Jessop, once the bishop of the twin towns himself, has returned after years of absence, Draper said.
"I just saw him yesterday, over at the post office, waving at people and saying hello and trying to engage people," he said Thursday.
Jessop was also in town last week, after Steed was told to move immediately, she wrote in court documents. After he arrived at the house, Alan Jeffs called police. According to the police report, Jessop refused to leave until leaders "provided another home for me and my family," an apparent reference to the trust. Colorado City police arrested Jessop, cited him for trespassing and released him.