Men have been told to “repent from a distance” and leave the polygamous border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz. Their wives and children have been “reassigned” to other men. Teenagers have been booted out for committing some “unnamed sin.”
Now some people are being allowed back in, sources tell the Deseret Morning News.
Some of them may have information that could help law enforcement in their criminal investigations into Jeffs and the FLDS Church.
“It’s all very suspicious,” said a daughter of John Nicholson, who she said was reinstated this year. She asked that her name not be used to protect members of her family.
She said Nicholson was excommunicated in 2005. As an accountant for a pair of FLDS-related businesses, he worked on the books for Warren Jeffs and his father, Rulon.
“I know he’s always been very pro-Warren, even when he was kicked out,” she said. “He was repenting from afar.”
The woman said that in April, Nicholson was reinstated in the FLDS Church with two of his wives given back to him. It took members of the family by surprise, she said.
“They don’t have any need for an old man unless he had something on them, and he served for many years,” she said.
The Utah Attorney General’s Office is conducting an organized crime investigation into the FLDS Church. It has stalled because investigators have been unable to get their hands on any documents and accounting books related to the polygamous church.
In an interview with the Deseret Morning News, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff expressed surprise that members of the FLDS Church had been allowed back in.
“It’s not Warren’s practice to let anybody back in, so there must be a reason for it,” Shurtleff said. “I don’t think it’s because Warren’s decided they repented.”
At least five people are reported to have been allowed back into the FLDS fold, said ex-members. Some have been given back their families.
“I believe there’s a certain factor in that decision to let them go back. Maybe send out a message to the minions, the hundreds that are still out there,” said ex-member Richard Holm, who was kicked out of the FLDS Church in 2003. “Try and throw out some sort of carrot to continue their loyalty. Pledge allegiance to the beast and they can maybe make it back in.”
Former Colorado City town councilman William “Bill” Shapley was reinstated last year. An investigator in the Mohave County Attorney’s Office believes Shapley was allowed back in to control his daughter. Candi Shapley refused to testify Tuesday at a trial in Kingman, Ariz., against her polygamist husband, Randolph Barlow.
“I think that’s the reason he was let back in,” Mohave County attorney’s investigator Gary Engels said of Bill Shapley’s reinstatement. Since then, Engels said his witness has gone from being willing to hostile.
“It has big effects, huge effects with the victim,” he told the Deseret Morning News.
Barlow is one of eight Colorado City men facing charges of sexual conduct with a minor and conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor.
Candi Shapley, now 20, claims she was ordered by Warren Jeffs to marry Barlow at age 16. Previously, she had told a Mohave County grand jury that she had never met Barlow before marrying him and was forced to have sex with him.
After refusing to testify about her relationship with Barlow this week, the judge found Shapley in contempt and ordered her to spend 30 days in an abused women’s shelter and wear an electronic monitoring bracelet.
Mohave County prosecutors said in court Tuesday that Shapley may have been influenced by members of her family who were trying to protect Jeffs.
Ex-members said more people have been recently kicked out of the FLDS Church.
“He is literally king,” ex-FLDS member Andrew Chatwin said. “He rules the mayors, the police department, the schools, the homes.”