Abandoned FLDS houses may signal exodus

In most cases, unsigned letters are only sign of families who have left

A handful of followers of polygamous sect leader Warren S. Jeffs have abandoned their homes at the Utah-Arizona state line in what may be signs of an exodus.

So far, 10 dwellings have been abandoned in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., the historic home of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

The homes are part of a communal property trust once run by the FLDS church but now managed by court-appointed fiduciary Bruce R. Wisan.

Wisan received four unsigned letters about empty homes, each containing a printed notice stating the residence was unoccupied and “hereby turned over to the United Effort Plan management.” All were last occupied by relatives of Jeffs, according to Isaac Wyler, a former FLDS member who lives in the community.

Wyler found a fifth notice – along with a key – taped to the front door of another home in Hildale.

“Something is up, because that is a big change from what they were doing,” he said. “It shocked me the first time I saw [a notice]. We’ve had to fight so hard to get homes back.”

Wisan said several other homes, two trailers and an apartment also have been abandoned recently.

“It’s like the FLDS don’t even have enough people there to act as placeholders for these houses,” said Wisan.

According to the 2000 Census, there were 700 housing units in both towns. At that time, 24 were vacant. The four homes turned over to the trust most recently range in size from a 13-bedroom, 10-bathroom abode to a “tiny one” with seven bedrooms and four bathrooms, Wyler said.

The UEP may have to pick up 2006 taxes on the properties if the previous occupants didn’t pay them, Wisan said.

The whereabouts of those residents is a mystery. It’s possible they have relocated to other homes in the community, but Wyler doubts it.

“I think they’ve been called to some compound or Zion somewhere,” he said. The FLDS has known outposts in Nevada, Texas, Colorado, South Dakota and British Columbia.

Jeffs will be in 5th District Court in St. George on Thursday for the conclusion of a hearing on whether there is sufficient evidence to try him on two charges of being an accomplice to rape.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday December 12, 2006.
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