Phoenix -- A Colorado City polygamist was charged with five criminal counts alleging he had unlawful sex with teenage girls who became his wives, according to prosecutors and court records.
A complaint filed Feb. 27 in Mohave County Superior Court alleges Orson William Black Jr. had sexual relations with Roberta LeAnn Stubbs when she was 15 to 17 years old. Black faces similar charges involving Roberta's sister, Beth M. Stubbs. Both women, now adults, became pregnant with Black's children when they were teenagers, prosecutors say.
Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard said the complaint against Black is part of an ongoing investigation "into a wide variety of subjects" and that child abuse is one of "the top concerns." "I, along with previous administrations, want to make it clear that violations of child abuse will not be tolerated anywhere," Goddard said yesterday. "When we can prove it in court, we will go after abusers aggressively."
There was no phone listing available for Black in Colorado City. Most of the estimated 3,300 residents of Colorado City and neighboring Hildale, Utah, are members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
The church, a sect that began after the mainline Mormon church disavowed polygamy in 1890, openly advocates plural marriage. FLDS polygamists commonly have legal marriages with their first wife and "spiritual marriages" with the other wives. Arizona state prosecutors haven't been able to arrest Black because they cannot find him, said Richard Travis, a spokesman for the Attorney General's Office.
Travis said Black has eluded authorities since the complaint was filed last month. Rod Parker, an attorney who represents the Fundamentalist LDS church, said Black has long been estranged from the FLDS community in Colorado City.
"He's not a member of the community I represent," Parker said. "None of this going on with William (Black) has anything to do with the church."
Black was a member of the mainstream FLDS but in the 1980s had a falling out and broke away, Parker said. In a related polygamy case, Rodney Holm, a certified police officer in Hildale and Colorado City, was charged in December with unlawful sex with a minor involving his third wife, Ruth Stubbs.
Holm has 21 children with the three wives. Ruth Stubbs is the sister of Holm's first wife, Suzie. Suzie Holm, formerly Suzie Stubbs, was also accused of aiding and abetting unlawful sexual conduct between her sister, Ruth, and her husband. However, charges against Suzie Holm were dismissed in December.
Ruth and Suzie are also the sisters of Roberta and Beth, who, according to prosecutors, are married to Black. Rodney Holm has been ordered to stand trial.
Birth certificates show Ruth Stubbs was 16 when her first child was conceived and Rodney Holm was 32. They also show that Ruth Stubbs was 17 when she conceived her second child.
Sen. Linda Binder, R-Lake Havasu City, was elated at the news of the charges against Black. "I think it's great. It's a step in the right direction," she said.
In 2001, Binder sponsored a bill requiring anyone wanting to marry a child under age 16 to show a judge the union is voluntary and in the best interests of the child.
The measure was signed into law by then-Gov. Jane Hull, a Republican. Premarital counseling is mandatory for such couples unless a judge determined it was not reasonably available. Also, the court could require the minor to continue attending school.
The goal, Binder said, is to protect children from situations where they might be forced into a marriage. Prompted by reports of polygamists forcing underage children into marriage, Utah lawmakers enacted a measure providing that anyone convicted of performing or allowing a marriage involving anyone under 16 years could be sentenced to up to five years in prison.
Binder said she hopes the Attorney General's Office continues to investigate teenage pregnancies in Colorado City.