Reactions vary on Warren Jeffs verdict

ST. GEORGE – The courthouse in St. George was buzzing when the Warren Jeffs verdict was read Tuesday.

However, on the other side of Washington County, members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Hildale and Colorado City appeared to keep to their daily routine.

Elaine Tyler, president of the Hope Organization, came out of the 5th District Courthouse cheering.

“I was excited,” she said. “I’m on Cloud 9.”

Tyler said the Hope Organization is there to help people who are coming out of polygamy.

“It’s our niche,” she said. “Our attitude is consenting adults can practice polygamy. Any girl under 18 practicing polygamy is child abuse.”

Tyler said she was anxious before the verdict came in.

“If FLDS members didn’t get the guilty verdict we would be sending a message to the followers that this is OK,” she said. “What’s wrong with waiting ’til they’re 18?”

Richard Holm, 54, who was kicked out of the FLDS church by Jeffs four years ago, said it was the right decision.

He added although Jeffs has been judged guilty, it will only affect the FLDS community in a small way.

“There will be more underground ways of how church business is conducted,” he said.

Holm said he doesn’t think the marriage of under-age girls will stop.

“I’m sure it will slow down, but I don’t think it will stop it,” he said.

Across the street from the courthouse, several people watched the media circus.

Patti Anthony, St. George, said she had been watching CNN and wanted to take in the scene in person. “We’re lookie-loos,” she said.

Raechal Petris, St. George, said she thinks the verdict is well-deserved.

“He (Jeffs) knew there could be consequences for his actions,” she said. “I do think he thought he was going to get off.”

Danna Long, St. George, said there are still people marrying under-age girls an hour-and-a-half away.

“As a whole, our community is condoning this by looking the other way while this man is going to become a martyr,” she said.

Feelings were similar on the other side of the county.

Claudia Dockstader, Colorado City, said she didn’t have an opinion on the verdict either way.

“There’s a lot of people who had their lives involved in it and I feel bad for the FLDS people,” she said. “I’m glad I’m not caught up in it.”

Marvin Wyler, an apostate of the FLDS church, said he was happy with the verdict.

“I’m hoping with him (Jeffs) out of the picture people will slowly come back to reality,” he said. “People can start to live again – they can love their neighbor.”

Wyler said he left the church because he couldn’t go along with Jeffs’ teachings.

“He turned brother against brother and sister against sister,” he said.

Lisa Pledger, of Centennial Park, another polygamous community near the Utah-Arizona border, said she is glad something is happening.

“I think this town has changed tremendously since he’s been in jail,” she said. “Kids are playing outside, people are opening their windows. When you go to the store they (FLDS followers) don’t avoid looking at you if you look different.”

Gary Engels, investigator with the Mohave County Attorney’s Office, said he just wants FLDS members to obey the law.

FLDS followers approached for comment about the Jeffs verdict refused to answer any questions.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday September 26, 2007.
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