In seized letter, officer writes fugitive leader, affirms commitment
While Warren Jeffs was a federal fugitive sought on sex crimes charges, the town marshal of Hildale and Colorado City wrote to the polygamous leader, pledging his allegiance and asking for directives for the community’s police force.
The marshal, Fred Barlow, updated Jeffs on the department and his own family, according to the seized letter. The towns are the home base of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, led by Jeffs.
“I do not know exactly what we have ahead of us but I do know that I and all of the other officers have expressed our desire to stand with you and the priesthood,” Barlow wrote. “I fill [sic] that without the priesthood I am nothing.”
Federal authorities obtained the letter on Oct. 28, 2005, when Jeffs’ brother, Seth Jeffs, was arrested in Colorado with correspondence, money and other supplies believed to be intended for Jeffs.
The Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board is citing the letter in one of three misconduct charges against Barlow, who could lose his police certification. It released the letter to The Salt Lake Tribune on Thursday after a records request. Barlow did not return a phone call seeking comment Thursday.
On Wednesday, the Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training Academy’s board voted to investigate the entire marshal’s office. The office is believed to have Barlow and four full-time deputy marshals, each with certification in Utah and Arizona.
All could be decertified and barred from Utah law enforcement.
The one-page letter from Barlow isn’t dated, but in an August interview with Arizona POST, Barlow said he wrote it in October 2005, according to regulators’ case notes. The letter begins: “Dear Uncle Warren.”
After affirming his belief in Jeffs to lead the church, Barlow writes: “I rejoice in the peace that comes over me when I follow the directives that you have sent to me through Uncle William.”
Barlow said the officers in his department have stated “their desire to follow the directives that are placed before us. I feel that I am the weakest one among them, but I want to fill the position that you would have me fill and do the job the way that you would like it done.”
The marshal noted two officers were graduating from Utah’s police academy that month, and said he intended to hire one, Sam Johnson, “unless you would like us to do something different.”
Utah’s decision to investigate the department followed a presentation by attorney Zachary Shields, who alleged the town’s marshals have hindered investigations into property thefts and may remain loyal to Jeffs.
Shields represents Bruce Wisan, appointed by a judge to oversee a trust that holds most of the property in the two towns. Wisan has claimed the marshals have not protected trust property from being stolen and have been unhelpful as he and his staff have tried to inspect property and enforce court orders.
“We just don’t feel like we have any level of trust with them,” Shields said Thursday. “They are not doing what any normal police officer should be doing to protect the landowners in their town.”
Arizona POST administrative charges against Barlow allege he sought direction from a federal fugitive; refused to ask questions during a deposition; and refused to answer questions posed by an investigator for the Arizona attorney general.
The agency also has accused Deputy Marshal Preston Barlow of not answering questions from an attorney general investigator.
Both men have appealed the charges. No date has been set for a hearing before an administrative law judge.
In his letter, Barlow also wrote that Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard might have requested a federal investigation into alleged civil rights abuses by the community’s marshals. Also, Arizona POST was meeting to decertify two marshals, his letter said.
News reporters kept asking the marshals why town residents won’t speak with them, Barlow added, commenting: “the media have never told the truth about this people and that the people are not trying to justify themselves to the world.”
Barlow also told Jeffs about inquiries by another law enforcement agency. He wrote he had received calls from a Washington County Sheriff’s Office about two girls reported missing.
He later concludes: “I am praying for you to be protected and yearn to be with you again,” ending the letter, “Your servant, Fred J. Barlow Jeffs.”
Case notes from Arizona POST say the regulators met with Barlow Aug. 10, when Barlow was shown a copy of the letter.
The notes say he told the regulators he does not get day-to-day advice from Jeffs but added, “We may ask for some advice on some things if we can get it.”
Bob Forry, the compliance manager for Arizona POST, told The Tribune he doesn’t know how much contact Barlow had with Jeffs.
“He was asking for some direction,” Forry said. “I guess the question is what direction.”
Utah regulators have visited the marshal’s office on previous occasions to reinforce police rules. Townsend said he has asked all of the marshals whether they practice polygamy and they have told him no.
Some of the marshals have been asked in depositions arranged by Wisan whether they follow orders from Jeffs and place allegiance to him above police duties. They declined to answer.
Jeffs was indicted in Mohave County, Ariz., in June 2005 on three low-level felony counts accusing him of trying to arrange marriages of underage girls to adult men. He later was charged with first-degree felony counts of rape as an accomplice in Utah.
Jeffs made it onto the FBI’s list of 10 most wanted fugitives before his August capture outside Las Vegas. He’s currently in the Purgatory Correctional Center in Hurricane.