Utah authorities have filed a new unlawful flight charge against polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs, giving authorities more reason to hold Jeffs if he is ever apprehended.
The complaint, signed Tuesday by a federal magistrate in Salt Lake City, says Jeffs left the state in January 2005 to avoid prosecution on a Arizona rape-as-an-accomplice charge. Jeffs is the president and prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which has historically been based in Hildale and Colorado City, Ariz.
The rape charge filed against Jeffs, 50, earlier this month in a state court in St. George alleges he conducted a spiritual marriage between a teenage girl and an older man. The marriage took place in Nevada within the past four years, according to Washington County Attorney Brock Belnap.
The girl repeatedly asked Jeffs to release her from the union, saying she was not ready to be married or have children. Jeffs told the girl, identified only as “Jane Doe,” that if she did not give herself over to her husband she would lose her salvation.
Jeffs faces similar charges in Arizona for arranging marriages between minors and older men. Arizona also has issued an unlawful flight complaint against him, which triggered the FBI to place Jeffs on one of its most wanted fugitives lists. A $60,000 reward has been offered for information leading to Jeffs’ capture.
As for the new charge, “It is just one more tool that can be used to hold him in custody,” said Melodie Rydalch, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney Office in Utah. “The more avenues you have to work with in finding someone, the better off you are.” Law authorities first began seeking Jeffs in 2003; he disappeared from the polygamous communities of Hildale and Colorado City, Ariz., sometime in 2004. His last sighting may have been in January 2005, when he is thought to have participated in a groundbreaking ceremony for a temple at an FLDS compound in Eldorado, Texas.
The FLDS also has enclaves in Mancos, Colo., and Pringle, S.D.