A west Texas sheriff said Monday he has no plans to raid a local ranch to arrest the head of a polygamous sect on the Arizona Strip on charges that he arranged a marriage between a 16-year-old girl and a man who already was married.
Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran said he will remain in contact with Arizona authorities to assist when necessary in the case of Warren Jeffs, president of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS). Jeffs was indicted Friday by a Mohave County, Ariz., grand jury on two Class 6 felonies, the next serious offense above a misdemeanor.
The FLDS long has been headquartered in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., twin towns where Jeffs and some 8,000 followers have lived. Members of the faith accept polygamy as a central tenet.
The church acquired the 1,900-acre ranch just outside Eldorado, Texas, last year, and has constructed several buildings, a residence and a temple, prompting speculation that Jeffs has relocated there.
However, Doran said he has been in contact with officials at the ranch and he does not know Jeffs' whereabouts.
"There is no evidence of information indicating that Jeffs is on the property," the sheriff said.
Jeffs is charged with sexual conduct with a minor and conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor, each punishable by up to a year in jail. Mohave County Attorney Matthew Smith has said Jeffs is not accused of having sexual contact with an underage girl, but of arranging the marriage of the girl and the 28-year-old married man.
The man was charged with two counts of sexual assault and one count of sexual conduct with a minor. Authorities are withholding his name until he is served with the indictment.
In addition to properties in Eldorado, Utah and Arizona, the FLDS owns property in Mancos, Colo., and Creston, British Columbia.
The Utah Attorney General's Office has been trying for two weeks to serve Jeffs with a temporary restraining order in a civil legal action involving the church's trust fund, called the United Effort Plan (UEP). Officials say the assets of the trust might be imperiled and have asked a Utah state judge to place the fund under independent supervision.
A process server who went to the Texas compound to serve the order on Jeffs, who is one of the UEP trustees, says he was stopped at the gate, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said last week.
The Arizona indictment apparently is the first criminal action against Jeffs. In 2004, though, he was hit with two civil suits, one by a nephew accusing him of child sexual abuse and the other by a group of young men who claimed they had been wrongly driven from the Hildale-Colorado City community. In addition, a former church member added Jeffs and the FLDS as defendants in a suit claiming he had been wrongly fired from his job at a Hildale company because he no longer adhered to the faith.
None of the plaintiffs in the lawsuits has been able to serve Jeffs with the legal actions and instead have published notices in newspapers in Utah, Arizona, Texas and Canada.