OPINION – Out on the edge of the desert where the bright, blue sky serves as a backdrop to the glowing hills and mesas, the law is a tricky thing.
For years, the primary law enforcement agency in the twin cities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., which sit side by side along the Utah-Arizona state line and are commonly referred to as Short Creek, has been the Colorado City Town Marshal’s Office.
A group of six men, all members of the Fundamental Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, make up the force.
Technically, Hildale is under the jurisdiction of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and Colorado City under the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office.
Practically, however, Short Creek is, if you believe those who escaped the polygamous community, Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson, and Mohave County Sheriff Tom Sheahan, under the jurisdiction of Warren Jeffs, the self-proclaimed prophet of the FLDS. And, although Jeffs is serving a life-plus sentence in a Texas prison for sexually abusing two young girls – one 12, the other 14 – who he took as spiritual wives, there are many who say Jeffs still calls the shots.
At the age of 14, Ruby Jessop was placed into marriage with an adult man. By the age of 15, she was pregnant. She says she can’t remember how many times she tried to escape the polygamous community, as her sister, Flora, had done in 1986.
“The Marshal’s Office is the one that brought me back to be placed back into the abuse,” she has told interviewers since breaking free.
The marshals are referred to, irreverently, as “The God Squad.”
Although Washington County Sheriff’s Office deputies pretty much don’t go into the area unless somebody contacts them directly, the county attorney sends them to investigate, or they are called in by the Town Marshal’s Office, Horne has done all he can to increase oversight by the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office on his side of the state line.
He has pushed for legislation that would shut down the marshals on decertification issues and has cobbled together $400,000 to increase pay for more patrol by the county sheriff’s deputies.
“I think (the marshals) are totally dysfunctional,” he has told interviewers. “They participate in the oppression. And that oppression is the worst injustice that’s happening in Arizona right now on my watch as attorney general.
“Young women trapped in polygamist arrangements with much older men — who had escaped from Colorado City — have stated that other women trying to escape were caught by the local marshals and forcefully returned to their husbands. In one case, the husband threatened ‘blood atonement’ if the women tried to escape again, which involves execution by a method too horrible to describe here.”
Sheahan described the town marshals as “security guards for the FLDS church.”
“They are corrupt and work only for the FLDS and Warren Jeffs,” he said.
An investigation by the ABC news team in Phoenix found that over the last 10 years seven marshals have had their police certifications revoked. The investigation also revealed that one marshal was convicted of unlawful sexual conduct with a 16-year-old girl; another marshal admitted to molesting a five-year-old girl; and a marshal, who was an admitted bigamist, also was accused of failing to report child sex abuse. Investigators also uncovered two more who wrote letters to Warren Jeffs, pledging their allegiance to him while he was a fugitive on the run from the FBI.
In light of this, I wonder how anybody of good heart, good faith, good soul cannot do everything within their power to move heaven and hell when we hear of reports that Jeffs has ordered three men to impregnate all girls and women 12 and older in the community.
Who is there to stand for these children? Who is there to protect them? Who is there to shelter them from this threat of evil?
We have Jeffs and 10 other men sitting in a Texas prison for raping children at the FLDS Yearning for Zion compound in Eldorado. We have women who have escaped from this treacherous lifestyle telling us how they were raped, molested, emotionally and physically battered. We have journalists who have investigated the culture who have reported on the abuses that take place.
If that is not evidentiary enough for law enforcement on both sides of the state line to take a harder look at this recently reported allegation against Jeffs, what is?
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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