Former FLDS member talks about being kicked out

CBS 4 News, Denver/November 25, 2008

Denver - A Denver area man claims he was thrown out of the polygamist group the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS). It separated him from his wife and children including two who are severely handicapped.

Shelly Cooke spent most of his life in the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints, but when a dispute came up, he was kicked out. He say his family was reassigned.

Cooke came to Denver to find a new life. He says he grew up in Colorado City, Arizona and Hildale, Utah, the twin cities called "Short Creek."

"Short Creek" is the longtime polygamist community controlled by the FLDS whose prophet Warren Jeffs is now behind bars.

CBS4 asked Cooke if he thinks polygamy is bad?

"That's a very hard thing for me to answer," he said. "I'm the son of a second wife. If polygamy wasn't there I don't know if I would be."

"I was forced out I was suddenly, no warning at all, I was told I was done," Cooke said.

He claims Warren Jeffs ordered him out of the FLDS in a dispute over the care of his severely handicapped daughter who later died.

"I had children there," Cooke said. "I was no longer allowed to see. I had handicapped children that needed medication and needed care."

Cooke says his wife and children were reassigned to another man. Wanting to get away from it Cooke moved to Denver 9 years ago and gained a new perspective.

"I think out here a man will be married and he will spend time with another woman cheating, whatever it is, polygamy is a lot the same thing except they take care of them," Cooke said.

That life is in his past. Would he go back?

"No chance. Being out here and seeing the way the people are, there's lots of good in the world, there's a lot of good people out here. It's not like we were taught," Cooke told CBS4

In Short Creek, he has more than 20 brothers and sisters and his four remaining children.

Cooke acknowledges that since leaving the FLDS, he has had personal and legal problems. He says he has come forward in hopes of somehow getting in touch with his family.

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