The legal troubles for Warren Jeffs have not ended just because he currently resides in a Texas prison -- and probably will for the rest of his days. Texas moved recently to seize the Yearning for Zion Ranch because it was used as part of a criminal enterprise -- the systemic rape of underage girls. Now the state of Arizona is moving against Jeffs and his church.
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne says there is an ongoing criminal investigation into a polygamous sect along the Utah-Arizona border.
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A 26-year-old woman who claims Jeffs forced her into marriage at age 14 has now fled the group. She says she and her six children were held against their will for years.
Horne says her allegations of forced underage sex, among other things, are part of the ongoing case, but he declined to provide details.
The woman in question is Ruby Jessop -- sister of Flora Jessop, who left FLDS in 1986 and has been one of the sect's harshest critics. During his press conference, Horne announced that this 26 year old woman had recently won temporary custody of her six children after escaping from the Colorado City compound last year. He was flanked by the Jessop sisters and Ruby's six children. He explained Ruby's circumstances.
He said she was forced by Jeffs to marry her brother-in-law at the age of 14, and had since been virtually held captive in the town on the Utah-Arizona border, along with many other women who want to leave.
"What they do is say, `Everybody watch her so she won't run away.' Then she can't leave," Horne said. "Women who wanted to escape have been forcibly held by the marshals against their will."
Flora Jessop also spoke for her sister describing her years of sexual and mental abuse at the hands of her husband. Her six children, she explained, were held "hostage" after she fled the sect.
Horne's charges against the marshals appear to figure heavily in the case being built against FLDS. He explained that a criminal probe into the Marshal's Office serving Colorado City, AZ, and sister city Hilldale, UT, is currently underway. It is not his first attempt to shut them down. He recently pushed for legislation to close the office and put the area under the jurisdiction of the Mohave Police. It failed but he is still pressing for passage of that legislation.
An attorney for the Marshal's Office disputed the charges that they hold women and girls against their will, calling the DA's comments "inflammatory." A second attorney, Jeff Matura, claimed further that the Marshal's Office has a good working relationship with the Mohave Sheriff's Office. It is a claim that is flatly denied by Mohave County Sheriff Thomas Sheahan, who is assisting the prosecution.
He described authorities there as "security guards for the FLDS church."
"They are corrupt and work only for the FLDS and Warren Jeffs," Sheahan said.