Woman Obtains Order Against Polygamist

The Salt Lake Tribune, May 6, 2003
By Mark Havnes, The Salt Lake Tribune

    PAROWAN — A 32-year-old Cedar City woman was granted a protective order Monday against her polygamist husband and given temporary custody of their three children.

    Tamara Phelps, 32, one of several “spiritual wives” of Orson William Black Jr., requested the order in 5th District Court in March. Black had been charged Feb. 27 with two felony counts of conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor and three felony counts of sexual conduct with a minor in Superior Court of Arizona for Mohave County.

    Black’s address is listed in court documents as Hildale, Utah, which is right over the border from Colorado City, Ariz., where the crimes allegedly occurred between 1998 and 2001.

    The two communities are home to members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a breakaway sect that practices polygamy.

    Black was not in court Monday and is believed to be in Mexico.

    Phelps said she became a second “wife” to Black when she was 17 and stayed in the plural marriage until 1995. “We were never legally married,” Phelps said Monday.

    Her three children remained with Black until the charges were filed in Arizona. They have been living with her since March.

    In a written statement filed with the documents in 5th District Court, Phelps described how Black, 42, allegedly abused their children, aged 14, 12 and 11.

    “I saw him beat my first baby on the face and the body. He continued to hold his hand over her mouth and she turned purple. I was afraid he had killed her, for a minute,” she said. Phelps said Black hit, kicked and threw the children against walls and threatened to kill her if she reported the abuse.

    She also said her two daughters had nightmares and asked her to buy them a lock, one said, “to keep big, mean people out of her bedroom at night.”

    “I have been physically, emotionally and verbally abused by Mr. Black until finally I escaped,” Phelps said. “I am terrified of Mr. Black and what he may do to me and my children.”

    Judge Philip Eves granted her request for a protective order.

    Phelps’ lawyer, Steve Julien, told Eves he had already filed a motion granting permanent custody of the three children to Phelps. Julien asked that a law enforcement officer accompany Phelps back to Hildale to retrieve items belonging to the children.

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