ST. GEORGE, Utah – An Arizona investigator said a 17-year-old Colorado City girl reported missing by her sister and feared forced to marry a polygamist leader says she is fine and not married.
“Things got out of hand,” Gary Engels, an attorney with the Mohave County Attorney’s Office assigned to the Arizona Strip polygamous town of Colorado City, told the Deseret Morning News.
Janetta Jessop’s older sister, Suzanne Johnson, filed a missing persons report with the Washington County Sheriff’s Department in Utah last week.
Johnson, who is estranged from her family, said she feared her younger sister had been married off to Warren Jeffs, the 48-year-old leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Most residents of Colorado City and the neighboring Utah town of Hildale, Washington County, are members of the FLDS church, which encourages polygamy as part of church teaching.
Engels and a representative of Arizona Child Protective Services visited the Jessop home on Tuesday and talked with Janetta Jessop. Washington County deputies also saw the girl a day earlier when they went to Colorado City on a welfare check.
“She said she’s fine. She looks like a typical 17-year-old girl from Colorado City,” Washington County Sheriff Kirk Smith said. “There were no red flags to our guys. Her parents were receptive and cooperative.”
Smith and Engels said the girl was interviewed away from her home to make certain no abuse had occurred.
She was taken to the Children’s Justice Center in St. George for the interview Tuesday afternoon and was released to her mother that same day, Engels said.
“The whole reason for doing the interview was to find out if she was a spiritual bride to Warren Jeffs. She was asked that question and she said ‘No,’ ” Smith said.