Criminal probe ongoing into Warren Jeffs polygamous sects

Warren Jeffs

Law enforcement in a town dominated by one of the largest polygamous sects in the U.S. has been preventing women from leaving, leading to a criminal probe of the church run by its jailed leader Warren Jeffs, Arizona's attorney general said Tuesday.

Attorney General Tom Horne held a news conference in Phoenix to announce that a 26-year-old woman had been granted temporary custody of her six children and had fled the town of Colorado City, Arizona, the home base of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

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.''

He said a criminal probe of the FLDS and the Marshal's Office, which serves as a small police force in the twin polygamous towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, is currently under way. He declined to provide details.

Attorneys for the two towns and the Marshal's Office adamantly denied the charges, calling Horne's words "inflammatory.''

"I can't speak for the FLDS but the bottom line is the Marshal's Office absolutely does not hold people against their will,'' said lawyer Blake Hamilton. "The Arizona attorney general, as the highest ranking law enforcement official in Arizona, ought not be making those statements unless he has evidence of it.

"It's just absolutely not true,'' Hamilton said. The church does not have a spokesperson to speak on its behalf, and Jeffs, who is said to still rule the sect, is jailed for life in Texas after convictions on child sex and bigamy charges.

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