The heightened security was ordered after authorities from Utah and Arizona warned them to be on the lookout for FLDS “enforcers,” the Deseret News has learned.
Every officer guarding Judge Barbara Walther’s San Angelo house was provided dossiers and photos of 16 FLDS men and women whom Utah police deemed a threat. However, e-mails obtained by the Deseret News from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office warned Texas authorities to be suspicious of everybody, not just those on the list.
“There are many individuals who are willing to give up their life for the cause and you can never underestimate what a religious fanatic is capable of,” according to the e-mails, which were obtained through Texas’ public records law.
Police were also keeping close tabs on witnesses, as the “enforcers” might try to “intimidate kids and other witnesses, watch foster homes where kids may be placed, bribe witnesses, appear at court hearings, and make attempts to contact FLDS kids,” according to an e-mail from an investigator with the Tom Green County District Attorney’s Office.
Law enforcement in Texas has been on alert since a Fundamentalist LDS Church-related Web site published Walther’s home address and work and home telephone numbers.
Walther signed the original order to remove all of the FLDS children from the YFZ Ranch in April and place them in state custody.
An attorney for the FLDS Church said its followers are peaceful people and that law enforcement has nothing to worry about.
“Have they ever seen an act of intimidation or violence against law enforcement from the FLDS community at all, ever?” Rod Parker told the Deseret News. “Before they start spreading those kinds of rumors, they ought to be able to ID an example of them ever doing that in the past.”
As for the threat to “pay Ms. Walther’s home a visit,” on the site www.flds.ws, Parker said the site is not sanctioned by the FLDS Church. The site is run by Bill Medvecky, a Fort Myers, Fla., man who has donated to the fund for captive FLDS children, Parker said.
Once Parker told church leaders that the post could be construed as a threat, they contacted Medvecky and had him remove the judge’s address, he said.
However, Walther’s work and phone numbers are still listed on the Web site. The site calls Walther the “leader of the Gestapo,” and includes a link to a petition to impeach the judge.
Medvecky doesn’t see the harm in publishing Walther’s address on the Internet. After all, it’s in the phone book, he said.
“They are not confrontational whatsoever. I am,” Medvecky told the Deseret News. “They are not me, and they have nothing to do with the site. We support them 100 percent.”
Texas law enforcement wasn’t aware of the threat until early June, but the dossiers “regarding any FLDS members who may engage in acts of intimidation or violence against law enforcement and/or potential witnesses” started circulating April 16.
The dossiers track individuals in FLDS leader Warren Jeffs’ circle of trust, as well as a few “wild cards” that make Utah authorities “uncomfortable.”
The list includes Willie Jessop, who has acted as one of the main spokesmen for the FLDS Church after the April 3 raid on the Yearning For Zion Ranch. The dossier calls him — William Roy Jessop — “the most serious threat associated with the FLDS religion.”
Others included on the list are Lyle Steed Jeffs, Warren Jeffs’ brother; and Lindsay Hammon Barlow, who witnesses described as Warren Jeffs’ “muscle,” among others.
“It is very obvious that Washington County officials do not let the facts get in the way of a good story,” Willie Jessop said. “These are the types of paranoid allegations that can hurt a lot of innocent people if they are allowed to go unchecked.
“I don’t know what the remedy is, but it should alarm everyone when an investigator does not even bother to fact check what he is supposed to be investigating.”
The dossiers include the persons of interests’ last known address and possible vehicles.
Washington County sheriff’s deputies compiled the dossiers by tracking individuals during Warren Jeffs’ 2007 trial, where he was convicted of rape as an accomplice after performing a marriage between a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin. He was sentenced to a pair of five-to-life prison terms.
Police believe Jessop, also known as “Willie the Thug” or “King Willie” in the dossiers, is the primary FLDS “enforcer” and has a passion for violence, weapons (legal and illegal) and explosives.
On the third day of Warren Jeffs’ trial, Jessop was banned from the courthouse after “it was determined he was attempting to intimidate the witnesses, after he was observed numerous (times) staring menacingly at the witnesses,” according to the dossiers.
Jessop said he and other FLDS men and women who attended Jeffs’ highly publicized trial were there as observers, nothing more.
“The fact that we would show up in court and then to have them turn that around on us shows how biased these public officials are,” Jessop said. “There are no facts, no history of violence, not a shred of evidence to support these irresponsible allegations. Not one bit of it is true and these officials know it.”
Other FLDS members showed up on the dossiers for a variety of things, from staring down and intimidating witnesses, being an active member of Warren Jeffs’ security team, or holding a high rank in the FLDS Church’s hierarchy.
Utah police also warned Texas officials of so-called “wild cards” or “religious fanatics,” including Ruth Cooke, a woman police said is “blindly devoted to Warren and the FLDS religion,” according to the dossiers.
“She is just the kind of person who may be capable of doing something crazy but justified in her head,” the dossiers state.
Dee Yeates Jessop is another “intimidating enforcer” who police described as a fanatic who blindly follows Jeffs. Witnesses told police Dee Yeates Jessop is “relatively unimportant” in the church’s command structure.
“His social status makes all the more dangerous. What would he do to improve his standing?” according to the dossiers.
Several other high-ranking church officials show up in the dossiers, like William E. Jessop, a high-ranking elder in the FLDS Church, and David Allred, who is involved in the church’s finances and is “fairly high in the FLDS pecking order.” However, the dossiers said the men were unlikely to be considered a threat, but could be involved in the decision-making process because of their positions of power.
Both Willie Jessop and Parker, who has also acted as a spokesman for the church, discounted the dossiers.
“If they are going to malign people’s character like that, they ought to have something better than someone staring at somebody or looking at them funny,” Parker said. “This is the same kind of rumor-mongering that I’ve been complaining about for a long time. These rumors tend to feed on themselves.”
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• Deseret News Religion & Ethics section
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