St. George -- A judge on Friday removed a protective order that a 17-year-old girl had obtained against her father, who lives with his family in Colorado City, Ariz.
The case was set in motion when Dan Wayman called 911 on Jan. 17, when his daughter drove away with her 23-year-old boyfriend. He said Friday that he had tried to keep the two apart and had obtained his own court order against the man to ensure his daughter's safety.
"We knew it was his birthday that day and his sister told us there was going to be a big beer party. I was concerned for her," Wayman said.
Officers in Hurricane, Utah, about 22 miles from Colorado City, phoned Wayman later that evening and told him to come and get his daughter. When he tried, he was told there were problems and the girl would not be returning home.
That caused a flurry of legal activity in Hurricane, a community sensitive to the fact that the border towns of Colorado City and Hildale, Utah, are home to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), many of whose members practice plural marriage. Earlier this month, church leaders excommunicated two dozen men, and advocates for women who may want to leave the church worried that dozens of wives and children might be displaced.
After an interview with social service officials, the girl sought a protective order against her father and was placed in foster care.
"People talk about these young girls being married off," Wayman said. "I was just trying to keep her from running off to get married until she's older."
FLDS attorney Rod Parker said it was simply a case of parents being too strict for a teenager's taste. "You have these girls who want to go kiss boys at the mall and their parents don't agree. They're being coached to say magic words given to them. Because it's Colorado City, no one ever stops to think, 'Wait a minute, is this really true?' Well, in this case it wasn't," Parker said.
Wayman said he and his wife have 13 children and are a "peaceful family," but were scrutinized by Arizona officials last year when the girl complained about being punished with a few whacks with a willow. Arizona officials found no abuse and the girl remained in her home.
On Friday, 5th District Judge James Shumate dismissed the order against Wayman, saying the matter should have been heard in Arizona's juvenile court. Arizona officials, however, likely will return her to her parents.
Through tears, the girl hugged her mother after the hearing and said she wanted to go and live with her grandmother in Salt Lake City.
Wayman said that would be fine.
Steve Terry of Arizona's Department of Child Protective Services said the Waymans have been cooperative.
But Assistant Utah Attorney General Paul Graf said the case might have sent the wrong message both to parents in Hildale and Colorado City and to advocates who are poised to help women and children.
"We hope this doesn't diminish what the advocates are trying to accomplish and what the parents are trying to do," Graf said.