Potential witness against Warren Jeffs refuses to testify

Arizona may have to drop one of its four counts of unlawful sexual contact with a minor against Jeffs.

Candi Shapley won’t testify. Not against the man who made her his 2nd polygamist wife when she was just 16. Not against Warren Jeffs, the man who allegedly arranged the “spiritual” marriage and even performed the ceremony.

Shapley was once considered one of star witnesses in the polygamy trials in Mohave County, Arizona. Her grand jury testimony helped lead to the indictment against her former polygamist husband, Randolph Barlow and one of the counts against polygamist prophet Warren Jeffs.

But Gary Engels, an investigator with the Mohave County Attorney’s Office, said that Jeffs put incredible pressure on Shapley through her family. Jeffs supposedly allowed her father to return to Colorado City (he had previously kicked him out of the community) with the understanding that he would stop her from testifying. It apparently worked.

Candi Shapley this week refused to take the stand in Barlow’s trial. She could have gone to jail for contempt of court, instead County Attorney Matt Smith dropped the case against Barlow.

Engels said the decision was made because, “we just didn’t want to victimize her any more.”

One count against Jeffs may also have to be dropped. Engels called the pressure put on Shapley a clear case of witness tampering. But he said nothing could be done about it without the cooperation of Shapley.

And there is the nagging fear that if Shapley can be prevented from testifying, could other witnesses lined up against Jeffs also be silenced? Could Arizona’s entire case against Jeffs be put in jeopardy? Engels doesn’t think so, but that does not eliminate the worry.

The problem in Arizona does not affect the Utah case. Warren Jeffs is due to go to trial in St. George in late April.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Friday March 2, 2007.
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