Former Colo. City man alleges death threat

Havasu News/February 5, 2004
By Mark Hall

Mohave County Sheriff's detectives are investigating what is believed to be a death threat aimed at a former church member in the largely polygamous community of Colorado City.

On Jan. 20 Ben Bistiline, now a historian, received an anonymously typed letter, which, based upon interpretation, is a threat on his life.

"You stand for apostates and gentiles and you as your kind should take this letter as a warning ... If I were you I would be shaking in my shoes with fear for your life because the Lord's going to take your life. You've brought down a scourge and condemnation upon yourself. At this point there's no place you can hide that the prophet can't find," the letter warns.

About a year ago, Bistiline and his family left the Colorado City for the nearby community of Cane Beds. He said he believes the threat is related to a historical book he wrote about the community, which is set for release soon.

"I hope it is a hoax - I'm not running from it; I'm not totally at ease," Bistiline said.

"The thing that is scary about the letter is the mentality of it."

Bistiline has lived in the Colorado City area since 1945 and was 18 years old during the state's raid on Short Creek in 1953.

Sheriff Tom Sheahan said his office, along with the Arizona Attorney General's office, is investigating the source of the letter. Despite claims that additional death threats have been made on members of the community who aren't affiliated with the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, he said the letter is the only confirmed threat his office is investigating.

"But if there are some we would certainly be investigating them," Sheahan said. In addition, Sheahan said he has stepped up patrols in the Colorado City area, which is located on the Arizona Strip.

"We've had them since the 10th of January, since the mass excommunication," Sheahan said, referring to church bishop Warren Jeffs' banning of 20 members including former mayor Dean Barlow. "We are rotating several officers several days at a time. We continue to have added personal indefinitely."

In addition to threats, the letter defends the practices of the community including "plural marriage," and says the outside world is "jealous."

"We got priesthood and that makes our women and children obedient to us ... You gentiles don't know how to direct women and children because you don't know about priesthood. You don't understand what it takes to be the priesthood leader of family. We have to raise our children like calves in a stall," the letter states.

In the letter's conclusion, its author writes that the community will do whatever "God's prophet" Warren Jeffs advises.

"We down to every single last man in Colorado City will gladly die to protect our prophet," the letter said.

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