“This is not going to be used as a hunting ranch,” Washington County Sheriff Kirk Smith told the Deseret Morning News Sunday after a short visit to the west Texas town of Eldorado, where the compound is located.
The property was sold in November to YFZ Land LLC, which lists Colorado City, Ariz., resident David Allred as its agent.
YFZ reportedly stands for “Yearn For Zion,” a song written by Warren Jeffs, president and prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Most of the church’s followers live in Colorado City and the twin community of Hildale, Utah.
Smith and Undersheriff Pete Kuhlmann visited Schleicher County at the invitation of that county’s sheriff, David Doran. The two met with Doran and 22 community leaders in a two-hour, question-and-answer session geared toward learning more about the FLDS Church and its followers, Smith said.
Residents of Eldorado learned in March that the FLDS Church had purchased the property and was constructing several large, three-story rectangular buildings on the site.
Allred initially told Doran and others the compound would be used as a corporate hunting retreat. But that changed Wednesday at a meeting Doran held with Allred and others, Smith said.
“They said it was not their intent to deceive the community, but if they announced they were an FLDS community, it would draw a lot of attention and press,” said Smith. “That seems to have backfired on them.”
Smith said the Allred delegation “said it was their intention to have no more than five buildings and not to exceed 200 people. Those people will be the closest followers of Warren Jeffs.”
It has long been rumored Jeffs plans to take some of his most faithful followers and move to a private compound in Mexico. The border is about 90 miles south of Eldorado.
Rod Parker, attorney for the FLDS church, discounted that theory in March and again Sunday.
“I think what they’re doing in Texas is just trying to have a refuge, if you will, for church leadership,” Parker told the Salt Lake City newspaper. “There has been intense pressure placed on them by Utah and Arizona, and I think they just want a quiet place, an outpost, where they can maintain their privacy.”
Utah and Arizona prosecutors have been investigating allegations of welfare and tax fraud, incest, child abuses and forced marriage of young girls to adult men. Anti-polygamy activists claim FLDS church leaders often traffic young girls between Colorado City-Hildale to the church’s enclave at Creston Valley in British Columbia.
The church’s membership has been estimated at 6,000 to 12,000 and it may be the largest polygamist sect in the West.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints disassociated itself from polygamy more than a century ago and now excommunicates members who advocate or practice it. However, there are believed to be tens of thousands of people who still practice polygamy.