Corporate retreat of prophet’s refuge?

Even as construction proceeds on a complex of three-story buildings some four miles north of Eldorado, rumors about the facility and its possible ties, if any, to a polygamist group located in southern Utah and northern Arizona are swirling through the community.

The buildings are located on a 1371-acre parcel of land purchased last year by a company named YFZ L.L.C., a Texas limited liability corporation based in Washington, UT. Documents filed in the Schleicher County Courthouse reveal David S. Allred as the YFZ corporate official who handled the transaction for the land. Allred is the only company official named in the corporation’s organizing papers filed with the Texas Secretary of State’s office.

Real estate closing documents associated with the property were signed by Mr. Allred here in Eldorado. At that time, Allred reportedly told several local citizens that he was planning to build a corporate retreat on the land. More than one local rancher has said that Allred told them he was the owner of Dave’s Builders, a construction company in St. George, UT., and that his clients are located primarily in Las Vegas, NV. Those clients were the reason for the retreat, Allred reportedly said, so that he could have a place for them to hunt and be entertained.

Allred’s assurances about the use of the land proved to be sufficient to settle local curiosity for a number of months. However, as construction progressed, its proximity to town and the county airport, made it inevitable that pilots who fly in and out of the airport would notice the scope of the project. Then came two events, ten days apart, involving a woman named Flora Jessop, from Phoenix, AZ.

First, on March 4, 2004, ABC’s Primetime Thursday program aired an interview with Jessop regarding her life’s work, rescuing young girls, forced to marry older men, from a religious sect know as the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), a splinter group that broke away from the Mormon Church many years ago after it turned away from the practice of polygamy, or plural marriages. Jessop said that she had escaped from the group at age 18 after being forced into a marriage with her cousin.

FLDS followers live primarily in the Utah/Arizona border region, with the majority of them living in the twin cities of Colorado City, AZ and Hilldale, UT. The two towns are actually a single city that straddles the state line. The town was once know as Short Creek.

The second event came when Jessop began contacting people in Eldorado, including Success editor Randy Mankin, with questions about the buildings being erected on YFZ property here in Schleicher County. She also claimed that the project is affiliated with the FLDS. She explained that since escaping from the group 18 years ago, she has devoted her life to helping young girls get away from the FLDS. Jessop said she is convinced that recent upheaval in the FLDS organization, prompted by the death of the group’s Prophet, or spiritual leader, Rulon Jeffs — and the subsequent ascension of his son, Warren Jeffs, to the office of Prophet — is a major reason the group is looking to relocate away from the Colorado City area.

Jessop further claimed that recent criminal convictions of FLDS leaders in and around Colorado City, has forced Jeffs to look for a remote place like Eldorado, where he could move some, if not all, of his followers.

Repeated attempts to contact officials with YFZ L.L.C. at its headquarters in Washington, UT, have been fruitless. Neither has the Success be able to contact David S. Allred. Phone numbers for Allred’s company, Dave’s Builders, listed on a business card he left here in the community, are no longer in service. The construction site is located off County Road 300 (Rudd Road) behind a locked gate on the property once owned by the late Red Cheek. Entry to the site is prohibited by a locked gate so the Success was unable to contact any of the construction workers who reportedly live at the site in mobile homes.

Likewise, calls to FLDS officials have not been returned. Neither could the Success contact Rodney Parker, an attorney in Salt Lake City, UT, who represents the FLDS, according to numerous published reports in Utah and Arizona newspapers.

Meanwhile, Jessop continues to press her case, announcing this week that she will be traveling to Eldorado on Thursday where she plans to hold a press conference. Jessop won’t be coming alone. Buster Johnson, a county supervisor in Mojave County, AZ, the county where Colorado City is located, will be coming, too. He is said to be one of Jessop’s strongest supporters.

Several print journalist and broadcast reporters are expected, as well, including reporters for the Salt Lake City Tribune and the Phoenix New Times, two newspapers that have devoted dozens if not hundreds of articles in recent years to the FLDS and the issue of polygamy on the Utah/Arizona border. A reporter with ABC’s Primetime Thursday is also due here this week.

Locally, Sheriff David Doran explained that he has been in contact with Flora Jessop and is aware of suspicions she has about the construction on the YFZ property. “I know that Ms. Jessop is committed to her cause, and I applaud her for it. But, at this time I am not aware of any connection between the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints and the buildings that are being built north of town,” Doran stated.

“I take this very seriously, but at the same time, we have to understand that the people working out there and those who may soon be living out there have rights, too,” the Sheriff continued.

“It is my hope that the people of Schleicher County will give this thing some time and let us do our job,” Doran added. “If there’s a need for law enforcement to step in, we won’t hesitate to do so. But until then, I hope cooler heads will prevail.”

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The Eldorado Success, USA
Mar. 25, 2004

Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday March 30, 2004.
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