Accused polygamist's 25 brides included four who were 15: Affidavit

The Vancouver Sun/June 30, 2009

Vancouver - Four of the 25 wives of fundamentalist Mormon leader Winston Blackmore of Bountiful, B.C., were just 15 when they were bound to him in spiritual marriages, says an affidavit filed Tuesday in his polygamy case.

Another two were 16 and three were 17, says the document, which depicts a complicated family tree.

The details were compiled by Const. Shelley Livingstone, one of the officers involved in the RCMP investigation into the polygamous community that began in 2004.

In all, it says, Blackmore has fathered 101 children with his host of wives.

The affidavit was filed in B.C. Supreme Court, where Blackmore's application for a stay on charges of practising polygamy is currently being heard.

The document alleges that among the 15-year-old brides was Lorraine Johnson, who married Blackmore, now 52, when he was 41. The first of her four children was born a year later, it says.

Johnson is one of 16 Americans who came to Canada with and without visas to marry Blackmore, according to the court document.

She was legally married in December 2005 to her "sister-wife" Shelina Palmer in a civil ceremony, it said.

At the time, it was unclear whether that was a love-match made legal in defiance of the community's beliefs or whether it was a marriage of convenience aimed at ensuring Johnson was not deported for living illegally in Canada.

Both Johnson and Palmer married Blackmore in 1998. Like Johnson, Palmer was only 15, the court document alleges.

The first of four children was born in 2000, and her second conceived only days before her 18th birthday.

The other two, who were 15 when they married Blackmore are Harmony Quinton and Christina Gallup Blackmore, according to the court document. Gallup Blackmore was the first of his celestial or plural wives in 1981.

It "wasn't long after when they had sexual relations," the RCMP constable alleges in the affidavit.

Quinton had the first of five children at 18.

Gallup Blackmore, who is now a respected midwife in Creston, B.C., has had 12 children. Her oldest is 21, the youngest was a year old when Livingstone compiled the list in 2005.

Gallup Blackmore's sister Mary Ann was 16 when she became Blackmore's third bride. Another sister, Susan, was also 16 when she was his sixth bride.

According to Livingstone, the RCMP investigation began after Blackmore's 11th wife - Zelpha Chatwin - spoke up at a conference in Winnipeg in February 2005 and said that her husband had been forced to marry a 15-year-old.

Chatwin was 20 on the day that she and her sister Marsha both married Blackmore. Marsha was 17. Both Chatwins have five children.

Despite RCMP having identified nine child brides, Blackmore has never been charged with sexual exploitation.

Up until 2002, Blackmore was the Canadian bishop of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Since 2002, he has led a breakaway group from the FLDS, which itself is a sect unrelated to the mainstream Mormon church, which renounced polygamy in 1890.

All of the under-aged brides are named on the indictment that charges Blackmore with one count of practising polygamy.

Not named on the indictment are Aloha Alaire Oler, Cherene Palmer and Carlene Gallup Blackmore, who were all in their 50s when they married Blackmore in religious marriages. According to Livingstone, each of them said they were "not like a real wife."

Others not listed on the indictment are Shirley Black and Catherine Broadbent. Both left Bountiful in 2002. Black's age was not listed, while Broadbent was 17 when she was sent to Canada to marry Blackmore, the document alleges.

Of the wives, seven were Americans and one was a landed immigrant.

Livingstone's affidavit indicates Blackmore and his wives all agreed to co-operate in the RCMP investigation and all came freely to interviews. The list of 25 names was compiled after interviewing all of the wives and Blackmore himself. Blackmore, she notes, confirmed the names of the wives on Sept. 26, 2005.

But on Tuesday, Blackmore said some ages of the wives when they were married are wrong.

In the past, Blackmore has admitted to having married "several" teens including some who were "just barely" under 16.

"There was one that was (under 16) and one that - that lied about her age," Blackmore told a CNN reporter in December 2006. "But that's not unusual for women, is it?"

Blackmore has long contended that the charter guarantee of religious freedom protects polygamy.

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