CUSTER, S.D. – The man who becomes Custer County’s sheriff in January says he will closely monitor a secretive compound near Pringle, where people linked to fugitive polygamist Warren Jeffs have set up living quarters.
”What I would like to do is keep in contact with people in the immediate area and touch base with law enforcement in the areas where colonies are set up,” said Rick Wheeler.
He said he doesn’t know whether direct confrontation is the best approach.
”There’s ways of getting in there,” said Wheeler, who defeated incumbent Phil Hespen in the June 6 primary. ”I think we should probably try to avoid that right now. I know the FBI is working hard. My goal is to keep in touch with those guys and work with them as much as I can.”
The FBI has no information indicating Jeffs lives at the Pringle compound, said Bob Perry, director of the Rapid City FBI office.
Jeffs, 51, is head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which is based in the twin communities of Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah.
He is accused of arranging marriages between underage girls and older men.
Wheeler, 52, said he has 12 years of law enforcement experience in three counties. He owns French Creek Supply and works as a Shannon County deputy and for the Fall River County State’s Attorney’s Office.
He said he’s sure he can handle the sheriff’s job.
”I’m a straight shooter. I think [I’ll] do a good job,” said Wheeler, the only challenger to oust an incumbent sheriff in five area GOP primaries.