Boulder author aims to find sect leader

Boulder author Jon Krakauer, who wrote a best-seller on a polygamous sect, is actively involved in searching for the group’s fugitive leader, law enforcement officials said Thursday.

The offices of the Utah and Arizona attorneys general said Krakauer has continued to follow the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints since the book was published in 2003.

“Krakauer is actively investigating a lot of things, including the whereabouts of Warren Jeffs,” said Paul Murphy, spokesman for Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.

Jeffs, 49, heads the sect that has lived on the Arizona-Utah border for nearly a century. It is sometimes confused with the mainstream Mormon church, which has excommunicated polygamists since 1890.

Krakauer, who wrote Under The Banner of Heaven: A Story Of Violent Faith, a history of Mormon fundamentalism, was unavailable for comment Thursday.

Jeffs, pursued by Arizona and Utah authorities, bought a secluded retreat in southwestern Colorado near Mancos and has established a new community for the sect in West Texas. Jeffs hasn’t been seen in public since January, when Krakauer took his picture at the site of the sect’s first temple on the West Texas ranch.

“Jon Krakauer did a lot of investigation when he wrote his book and he’s kept actively involved,” said Gary Engels, a Mohave County, Ariz., sheriff’s investigator.

Last week, a Mohave County grand jury indicted Jeffs for allegedly arranging a marriage between a 16-year-old girl and an older married man. A warrant was issued for Jeffs’ arrest.


The FLDS is also considered to be a cult of Christianity. Sociologically,the group is a high-control cult.

More indictments are expected, said Engels, who grew up in Denver and worked for the Silverthorne Police Department in the 1980s.

Jeffs is also sought in connection with several civil lawsuits in Utah, including one filed by three of his nephews that alleged sexual assault.

Krakauer has helped several “lost boys,” teenage males ousted from the sect to ensure that older men can have multiple wives, said Dave Bills, coordinator for the Diversity Foundation near Salt Lake City.

The Diversity Foundation, founded by a former member of the polygamist sect, helps the boys.

“We try to find these kids, find them a place to live and help them with school,” said Bills.

Bills said Krakauer has contributed to the foundation and acted as a guardian to one of the boys.

“Krakauer has been looking into this group for a long time. He’s very invested in it,” said Andrea Esquer, spokeswoman for Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard.

Neither Murphy nor Esquer would comment on Krakauer’s part in their investigations.

Krakauer’s book drew national attention to the sect’s alleged child sexual abuse, spousal abuse and fraud as prosecutors moved against Jeffs.

The arrest warrant for Jeffs has heartened many of the “lost boys” and other young men Jeffs removed from their families, Bills said.

“Their attitudes have changed since the government got on the ball,” Bills said. “The boys realize that someone cares.”

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Rocky Mountain News, USA
June 17, 2005
Deborah Frazier

Religion News Blog posted this on Friday June 17, 2005.
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