Former Colo. Officer Helped Prosecute Polygamists

CBS News 4, Denver/May 18, 2009

A year since the Texas raid that drew nationwide attention, the polygamist church, the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints or FLDS, remains under fire. Ten men in Texas are awaiting trial on charges of bigamy and sexual assault. FLDS leader Warren Jeffs is awaiting trial in Arizona following his sentencing in Utah. And now a former law enforcement officer from Colorado is playing a key role in prosecuting members of the church.

Gary Engles was a sheriff's deputy in Adams County, an officer in Golden and also Silverthorne. Now his territory includes the polygamist towns of the FLDS. His base is Colorado City, Ariz., home to the polygamous sect - the FLDS.

The church's prophet, Jeffs, is now behind bars after being convicted in Utah of rape as an accomplice for arranging an underage marriage. Engles played a key role in the investigation of Jeffs and numerous other FLDS members who have been successfully prosecuted.

CBS4's Rick Sallinger paid a visit to Engles and asked him how popular he thinks he is in Colorado City.

"I think I could probably rank up there with one of the most hated people here," Engles said.

Engles' office is a trailer on the edge of town. Five years ago the Mohave County attorney placed him there as the first outside investigator. There is a local police department but all of its force is made up of FLDS members.

Church spokesman Willie Jessop acknowledges the practice of polygamy goes on, but insists his group has been the victim of selective prosecution.

"How do you practice your religion and not break the law?" Sallinger asked Jessop.

"I think the thing that you have to look at is that we don't believe that we are breaking a law that isn't selective prosecution against us," Jessop replied.

Church members are not being prosecuted for having more than one wife. The charges have been for underage marriages and Engles says it's not selective.

"I believe as a far as religion goes you can believe whatever you want," Engles said. "It's when you start practicing what you believe, and it's against the law, that you have the issue."

Jeffs is now jailed in Kingman, Ariz. where he is awaiting trial there on charges as an accomplice to arranging underage marriages.

Engles was up against a wall of silence as he investigated Jeffs and the underage marriages in the polygamist group. He was able to build his cases by examining birth records of the wives.

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