ST. GEORGE, Utah – An antipolygamy activist says a compound being built north of Eldorado, Texas, is for Warren Jeffs, the head of the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Aerial photographs show three three-story houses, about 40 to 50 feet wide and 60 to 80 feet long, under construction that appear similar to some of the large homes in the twin FLDS communities of Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah.
Jeffs, who is estimated to have 50 wives, has long been rumored to be building a compound in Mexico. The border is about 90 miles south of Eldorado.
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“This new encampment is going to make it easier for them to traffic girls to/from Mexico, the same as they have been doing to Canada,” activist Flora Jessop said in a news release Wednesday. “We would like to see President Bush start to stand up and protect the women and children terrorized on American soil like he does for those in other countries. This American Taliban must be stopped.”
Most of Jeffs’ followers live in the Hildale-Colorado City area, but the church also has an enclave in Creston Valley, British Columbia, near the Idaho border. Estimates of the total membership range from 6,000 to 12,000.
Utah and Arizona prosecutors have been investigating allegations of welfare and tax fraud, incest, child abuses and forced marriage of young girls to adult men. Anti-polygamy activists claim FLDS church leaders often traffic young girls between Colorado City-Hildale and British Columbia.
Jessop scheduled a news conference Thursday in front of the Schleicher County Sheriff’s Office in Eldorado.
Rod Parker, an attorney for the FLDS church, said he had just learned of the development and he declined to speculate what it might be for. However, he said it was most unlikely that there were any plans to move the FLDS communities.
The aerial photographs show what appears to be a cement plant. The compound’s construction workers make their own concrete, said Jay Beswick, a child abuse advocate who has helped women flee from Colorado City-Hildale.
Eldorado Mayor John Nikolauk told The Spectrum in St. George that residents have seen cars with Utah and Arizona plates come and go, but the builders remain a mystery.
“They are out in the country, not visible from any highways,” Nikolauk said in a telephone interview Wednesday night. “I don’t know who they are.”
The Deseret Morning News in Salt Lake City said those who sold the ranch were told it was to be used as a corporate hunting retreat.
The purchaser is listed as YFZ Land, thought possibly to be a reference to “Yearn for Zion,” a song reportedly recorded by Jeffs.
Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran told The Salt Lake Tribune that even if FLDS members have moved there, “they are going to have to break some laws for us to get involved. At this point, there is nothing we’re interested in.”
The FLDS church may be the largest polygamist sect in the West. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints disassociated itself from polygamy more than a century ago and now excommunicates Mormons who advocate or practice it. However, there are believed to be tens of thousands of people who still abide by the polygamy principle.