Ex-wife, kids accuse FLDS polygamous sect foe Fischer of abuse

The Salt Lake Tribune/August 1, 2008

A Utah entrepreneur who has waged a public campaign to assist teens who fled or were kicked out of a polygamous sect was an abusive father and husband who abandoned some of his own children, according to affidavits submitted Thursday to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The allegations against Dan Fischer, founder of South Jordan-based Ultradent Products Inc., are detailed in sworn statements from a former wife, three children, three siblings and others familiar with his family.

Fischer testified before the committee Thursday in a hearing requested by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who is pushing for a federal investigation of the FLDS.

The 14 affidavits were submitted by Rod Parker, a Salt Lake City lawyer and spokesman for the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Six affidavits also were posted Thursday on an FLDS Web site, truthwillprevail.org.

Melinda Fischer Jeffs, Dan Fischer's oldest daughter, said in her statement she was severely beaten by her father at age 17 after flirting with boys over the telephone, a beating that left her "black and blue from my waist to my knees."

Fischer Jeffs also describes listening as a child as her father and his plural wives fought in an upstairs room.

"I remember times when a mother would stay in her room for a week on account of the black eye she received at the hand of my dad," Fischer Jeffs said in her statement. "I also remember seeing scratches and bumps on my dad after a fight."

Fischer acknowledged Thursday that there were "physical confrontations" among his three wives, himself and his children but not like those described in the affidavits.

"I can imagine there could be some element of truth there, but to the extent [Fischer Jeffs] is claiming, no way, that is ludicrous," Fischer said. "When you get this many people looking at Dan Fischer, who is probably considered their worst apostate, you can expect all kinds of crap."

Raised in the polygamous sect, Fischer left in 1995 with the second of his three wives.

For the past four years, Fischer, 59, and the father of 16, has acted as a benefactor to teens who left or were kicked out of the sect. Since 2004, his nonprofit foundation has provided financial and other assistance to about 230 "lost boys," Fischer told the committee - an effort he has previously described as costing him millions.

Fischer also has funded lawsuits brought by former members against FLDS leader Warren Jeffs, the FLDS church and its communal property trust.

During his senate testimony, Fischer said an investigation of the FLDS would likely reveal ''men who can provide economically for all their families but choose not to do so with the convenience of nonrecorded 'spiritual wives' and children versus 'legal wives' and their children.''

He said family reassignments within the sect destroy "a heritage, a lineage and the basic glue that holds a society together" and teared up while describing how he became an "orphan" at age 50 after his father's family was displaced in 1999.

He also told the committee that FLDS leaders' treatment of children was the "most tragic atrocity."

Marcia Barlow, Fischer's third wife, said she left their plural marriage in 1993 after years of "continual fighting," abusive behavior and lack of sexual intimacy with her husband. They had been spiritually married nearly 13 years and had two children, then 9 and 11, she said.

"Dan never helped me financially to take care of my children," Barlow said in her statement. She said she once sought state aid but was rejected because Fischer had cashed stock issued in their children's names.

"We never received the money," she said.

Fischer said that he attempted to gain access to his children by Barlow but was rejected and would have provided support if she or the children had asked for help.

"They were so down on me, they could not even bring themselves to ask," he said.

Barlow, 48, attended the Thursday hearing in Washington, D.C., and said her former husband's statements were "disgusting."

"The truth ought to be known about him now," Barlow said. "He is an embittered man, trying to hide his own life."

She said Fischer's statements about his father were disturbing because her former husband "hated him and everybody knew that."

Fischer acknowledged Thursday he did not have a close relationship with Erwin Fischer, his father.

"Every time he came around, he was proselytizing," Fischer said. "He was relentless when it came to keeping you in the FLDS fold. That said, he was still my father."

Several of Fischer's children said in their affidavits they endured a childhood where physical beatings and psychological terror were commonplace.

One daughter, Miryam Darger, said two siblings were driven out of the Fischer home by their father's temper.

Fischer Jeffs said in her affidavit that "corporal punishment was the rule in our home" and that her father would smother and slap his young children to keep them quiet at church. Others also observed that behavior.

"It didn't matter if extra family or friends were around. He often humiliated his children in public," said Alvin Fischer, a younger brother.

Two women who were friends of Fischer's daughters and lived in their home for a time, describe being in a nearby room as he beat Fischer Jeffs.

"All the children were crying," said Larena Black BistÂline in her statement. "We could hear them beating and whipping her, and they were still calling her bad names."

Fischer said to "reconstruct what may or may not have occurred in these children's minds is nauseating.

"We did have spankings on the bottom, we did believe in that, as did most of the FLDS and as did many non-FLDS 20 years ago," Fischer said. "I will tell you that I would not punish the same way today.

"I am not a perfect person nor have I been in the past," he said. "I hope I am a better person now [but there is] nothing of the magnitude they are claiming."

Fischer Jeffs said she has had to seek medical and psychological counseling because of her abusive childhood. "I feel I must share some of my experiences because what Dad is doing has harmed my life, my children's lives, the lives of others whom I love," she said, "and ultimately the way of life that I have chosen to live."

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