Testimony Begins in Warren S. Jeffs’ Preliminary Hearing in St. George
Posted: 11:22 AM- St. George – The older sister of a woman who claims polygamous sect leader Warren S. Jeffs forced her into marriage testified today that in 2001, her sister called, crying, and said she was to be wed.
“It was shocking and horrific,” the older sister said. “She was 14.”
The testimony came during a preliminary hearing for Jeffs, who is charged with two first-degree felony counts of being an accomplice to rape for officiating in an arranged marriage between the girl and a 19-year-old man. During the hearing, 5th District Judge James L. Shumate will decide whether there is sufficient evidence to order Jeffs to stand trial.
The identities of both are being withheld for the young woman’s protection, and The Salt Lake Tribune is not reporting the older sister’s name for the same reason. Shumate has issued strict prohibitions against photographing her or her family members or releasing any information that might identify her.
Jane Doe IV, as the young woman is being called, will testify against Jeffs sometime today.
Under questioning by Washington County Deputy Attorney Ryan Shaum, the older sister spent much of the morning describing Warren Jeffs’ teachings at Alta Academy, a school once operated by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in the Salt Lake Valley.
The school closed when the FLDS members moved en masse to Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz.
The older sister said students were taught what duties they would have to perform; that wives must be dutiful to their husbands; and that no one was ever to question the teachings of the sect’s prophet, who in the late 1990s was Warren Jeffs’ father, Rulon. The students were to “cling to him as their lifeline,” she said.
The sister said she was 19 years old when she learned she was to marry Rulon Jeffs, who was then 83. “Rulon told my father, and my father told me,” she said.
The marriage took place in 1995, she said, and lasted for seven years. In 1997, however, Rulon Jeffs suffered an incapacitating stroke, and leadership of the faith fell to his son, Warren, she said.
The elder Jeffs died in 2002, and Warren Jeffs became president and, his followers believe, prophet of the FLDS.
During cross-examination, Jeff’s defense attorney, Wally Bugden, read passages from The Enlightened Truth, a compilation of quotes from FLDS leaders on how to conduct a marriage and raise children. FLDS couples were to be loving, kind and respectful, Bugden read. He asked the older sister if she was aware of the teachings, and she said she was.
Testimony is to continue through the day.
The hearing has attracted media from across the country and as far away as The Netherlands and Canada. Also on hand are a number of people who have been instrumental in pursuing Jeffs and dismantling his church operations in Utah and Arizona – private investigator Sam Brower, Mohave County investigator Gary Engels and court-appointed fiduciary Bruce Wisan, who is overseeing the sect’s United Effort Plan Trust.