SALT LAKE CITY – Law enforcement officers in Arizona served search warrants on four homes in the polygamist enclave of Colorado City, Ariz., on Thursday, looking for evidence related to eight sexual abuse indictments handed up last summer.
Mohave County, Ariz., Sheriff Tom Sheahan said warrants were served simultaneously on four residences, but would not say who lives in the homes, nor if anything officers were looking for was removed.
“We can’t divulge evidence,” Sheahan said.
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A telephone call from The Associated Press seeking information from Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith was not immediately returned.
Sheahan said the warrants were served without resistance and officers were allowed to conduct their searches, which were completed just after noon.
Colorado City resident Isaac Wyler said he saw officers remove a single box from the home of David Bateman, one of eight men indicted last summer on charges of sexual misconduct with a minor and conspiracy.
All of the men are believed to be members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a splinter sect whose members were once affiliated with the mainline Mormon church, but left the faith after the main church abandoned the practice of polygamy in 1890.
Fundamentalists continue to believe that plural marriage ensures one’s salvation in the afterlife.
Most of the estimated 10,000 members of the FLDS faith live in Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah. The faith continues to practice polygamy and in recent years has come under fire for marriages between underage girls and older men.
Police did not execute search warrants on the Utah side of the border Thursday, Washington County sheriff’s Chief Deputy Rob Tersigni said.
Sheahan confirmed that officers were at Bateman’s home, but would give no other details beyond noting the searches were for “evidentiary information in pending court cases.”
“And who knows, it could be for Warren Jeffs,” Sheahan said. “Information we find could lead to other cases.”
Jeffs, 50, the fugitive leader of the FLDS church, is wanted on criminal charges of child sexual abuse in Arizona for allegedly arranging underage marriages. In Utah, Jeffs is wanted on felony charges of being an accomplice to statutory rape.
Last months, the FBI placed Jeffs on its list of Ten Most Wanted fugitives. He has not been seen publicly in Colorado City or Hildale for nearly two years and has refused to respond to any of the allegations against him, including several civil lawsuits involving a church-owned trust that holds millions in real estate, including most of the homes and other buildings in the two cities.