Life on the lam for two girls from a polygamous community on the Arizona Strip has taken the shape of a thriller, featuring an underground network, use of disguises and encouragement from strangers to keep running.
Fawn Broadbent, 17, and Fawn Holm, 16, remain in hiding. But Megan Holm, who disappeared with the teens from a Phoenix area hotel five weeks ago, returned Thursday to her parents’ home in Sandy with a message from the two Fawns:
“They want people to know they are not being held against their will,” Holm said. “They’ve got everything they need. They are happier than they’ve ever been.”
And the teens will stay in hiding, Holm said, until they get assurances they won’t be placed in foster care or returned to their parents in Colorado City, Ariz.
The two Fawns ran away from their homes in Colorado City in January, traveling first to St. George and then, aided by activist Flora Mae Jessop, to Phoenix.
“They never knew Flora until that night,” said Megan Holm, who is Fawn Holm’s cousin.
In Phoenix, the girls contacted state authorities with allegations of abuse. They claimed they were being deprived of schooling and said they feared being forced into arranged plural marriages. Nearly all residents of Colorado City and the adjoining city of Hildale, Utah, belong to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; many members of the church practice polygamy.
Holm, who was visiting them in Phoenix, was asked by Fawn Broadbent to join them. The trio has been on the run ever since, eluding efforts by the Glendale, Ariz., Police Department to locate them.
“I didn’t think it would be as long as it has been, but I didn’t think it would be easy,” Holm said.
She described the girls’ journey as a “Thelma and Louise” style adventure, referring to the 1991 movie that starred Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis as two housewives bent on being liberated from their boring lives.
The teens traveled to multiple states, used wigs and hair dye to disguise their identities and were given shelter by people who have created an underground network of sorts to aid those fleeing polygamy. She wouldn’t discuss how the girls got around or who they stayed with.
Holm, 18, said occasionally strangers who had heard of the girls’ plight in the news media recognized the Fawns and offered help and encouragement.
“They would say, ‘Don’t let those girls go back. If you need help, here’s our number. Let us know,’ ” said Holm, who described her role as surrogate mom and street-smart friend.
Altering their appearances gave the girls confidence to discreetly go out in public — taking in movies, going bowling and even visiting shopping malls, Holm said.
“We’re nothing like hermits. They’ve had much more fun with me in the last month and a half than they’ve had in their whole lives in Colorado City,” said Holm, who came home to Sandy to take care of a dental problem and get more insulin for her diabetes.
The two Fawns have tasted their first Dr Peppers, discovered astrology and spent hours watching the Disney Channel, which features the sort of programming deemed off-limits by FLDS leader Warren Jeffs. The girls are learning new hairstyles and how to apply makeup and are filling up their hours with typical girl talk, Holm said.
They’ve also had to make some adjustments to the world beyond Colorado City, such as learning how to relate to people outside the church who have always been described to them as evil or worse, Holm said.
Fawn Broadbent, according to Holm, has contacted her family a handful of times during her weeks in hiding and misses her mother and siblings — a feeling Fawn Holm doesn’t share, Megan Holm said.
The two Fawns have asked Arizona authorities to place them in the custody of Carl John and Joni Holm of Sandy, Megan’s parents. Carl John Holm, Fawn Holm’s older brother, left Colorado City nearly two decades ago.
Fawn Broadbent’s parents have said they are willing to let their daughter move to Sandy but Fawn Holm’s parents want her returned to them, saying their parental rights are being ignored because of their religious beliefs. Court hearings to decide the girls’ custody are scheduled for April and May; the girls’ attorneys have asked to meet with them prior to that.
The girls’ parents have characterized the teens as good but rebellious.
Right now, the girls “don’t even want to remotely risk” being made to live with people they don’t know or trust, Megan Holm said.
And so, for now, they’ll stay hidden.
“They do not want to run but they are willing to run for their safety,” Holm said. “They are not rebellious. They are doing this to seek protection.”