FLDS children’s education a concern
Police and prosecutors traveled to the Fundamentalist LDS Church‘s enclave in Eldorado, Texas, to talk with local law enforcement about the capture of polygamist leader Warren Jeffs and the future of his followers.
FBI agents and an assistant U.S. attorney from Arizona met earlier this week with Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran about the FLDS Church and what may happen now that Jeffs has been captured.
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“They were just keeping open lines of communication with the sheriff and others in the community there,” said Special Agent Deborah McCarley from the FBI’s office in Phoenix.
Doran told the Deseret Morning News the visit had been arranged before Jeffs was captured.
“They wanted basically to come down and see what the Texas ranch looked like. We just swapped information,” he said Thursday. “They went over the U.S. attorney’s role and what they’re going to be doing.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona would not comment on the visit to Eldorado.
“It’s inappropriate for us to discuss ongoing investigations,” spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle said Thursday.
Federal prosecutors in Utah and Arizona have filed a pair of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution warrants against Jeffs. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Utah has threatened to indict Jeffs on fugitive charges should he ever be granted bail.
Doran said he showed the men the ranch from a nearby road. The law enforcement officials also took a flight over the YFZ Ranch with Schleicher County Justice of the Peace James Doyle, who is also a part-time pilot.
“They were fairly impressed with the size of it,” Judge Doyle said Thursday.
On the ranch, an irrigation pipeline is being built and several houses remain under construction. The temple itself is walled off from the rest of the ranch. YFZ stands for “Yearning for Zion” after a song Warren Jeffs wrote.
The sheriff and the superintendent of the Schleicher County Independent School District recently met with FLDS members to discuss what — if any — education is being offered to children on the YFZ Ranch.
“I had very limited knowledge about what’s going on out there at all. I heard there were children out there, and I had that concern,” said superintendent Billy Collins.
The superintendent said FLDS members told him they were home schooling their children, using accepted textbooks and teaching a number of subjects that would satisfy the minimum required by the law.
“The law here is pretty vague, and we don’t really have a legal avenue to enforce what is being taught in a home-school setting,” Collins said Thursday.
Still, the superintendent said he wants to go out to the ranch to see for himself the home schooling that is taking place. He also has no idea how many children are on the ranch.
“They said education is a high priority to them,” Collins said of his visit with the FLDS members. “They are articulate, educated … the people that we spoke with.”
Doran said he is working with FLDS members to arrange an on-site visit. The sheriff and other county officials have been allowed out on the ranch with some frequency for things like building inspections.
Jeffs, 50, was on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list until being arrested in a traffic stop outside Las Vegas last month. He is being held in the Purgatory Jail without bail pending a court appearance Wednesday in St. George.
Jeffs is charged with two counts of rape as an accomplice, a first-degree felony. He is accused of forcing a teenage girl into a polygamous marriage and threatening her with damnation when she tried to leave. Jeffs faces up to life in prison if convicted.
In Mohave County, Ariz., prosecutors have charged Jeffs with sexual conduct with a minor and conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor.