Sheriff won’t raid polygamist compound to arrest leader

SAN ANGELO, Texas (AP) — A West Texas sheriff says he doesn’t intend to raid the Eldorado compound of a polygamist sect to arrest the group’s leader, who has been indicted on sex-crime charges in Arizona.

Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran said Sunday he will arrest Warren Jeffs on an Arizona warrant if he’s pulled over for a traffic violation.

On Friday, an Arizona grand jury indicted Jeffs, 49, on charges of sexual conduct with a minor and conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor. If convicted, he would face a prison sentence ranging from four months to two years.

The reclusive church leader is accused of arranging the marriage of a 16-year-old girl to a 28-year-old married man, said Mohave County Attorney Matthew Smith. He is not accused of having sex with the girl, Smith said.

“We’re not going to take any drastic measures,” said Doran, adding that he’s not even certain Jeffs is on the sect’s property. “We have a lot of out-of-state warrants issued. We’re not going to treat this one any different.”

Jeffs, the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, has not been seen in public for months, and officials aren’t sure where he lives.

Utah officials also are looking for Jeffs so they can serve him papers related to lawsuits filed against him in that state. The church has been under close scrutiny amid allegations of welfare fraud, sexual abuse and forced marriages.

Polygamy is illegal, but it is believed that tens of thousands of Mormon fundamentalists and others across the West continue the practice. Polygamy is practiced openly in Colorado City, a remote enclave in Arizona on the state line with Utah that is dominated by Jeffs’ group. Polygamy also is practiced in Hildale, Utah, across the state line from Colorado City.

The fundamentalist sect split from mainstream Mormonism after the broader church renounced polygamy more than a century ago. The fundamentalist group touts that men must have at least three wives to reach heaven.

Eldorado is 45 miles south of San Angelo.

Information from the San Angelo Standard-Times,


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AP, via the Casper Star Tribune, USA
June 14, 2005
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Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday June 14, 2005.
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