With their leader, the "prophet" Warren Jeffs, still on the lam, members of the polygamist breakaway Mormon sect, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, have been hard at work on yet a third secluded compound – much like their gated spread in the West Texas town of Eldorado – nestled in the Black Hills of South Dakota, outside the tiny town of Pringle. On March 8, the weekly Eldorado Success broke the news of the existence of the Black Hills compound, built on 100 acres of land purchased by FLDS member David Steed Allred (who also bought the 1,371-acre Eldorado spread) in 2003. Allred reportedly told the seller that the property would be developed into a "corporate retreat," the same line he used when purchasing the Eldorado ranch (see "Meet the New Neighbors," July 29, 2005). Since then, numerous large residential buildings, nearly identical to those on the Eldorado acreage, have sprung up on the property. "He purchased it around the same time [he bought the Eldorado property], and used the same line," says Success publisher Randy Mankin.
FLDS leader Jeffs has been on the lam for well over a year, dodging felony charges in Arizona, connected to his alleged role in arranging marriages between underage girls and older, married men, and a federal count of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. Last summer the FBI placed Jeffs on one of its Ten Most Wanted lists, and federal and state officials, combined, are now offering a $60,000 reward for information leading to Jeffs' arrest and prosecution. Mankin – whose paper previously broke the news that the FLDS had come to Eldorado and, later, that the sect had a similar compound in Mancos, Colo. – said he got a tip about the Black Hills property from a concerned South Dakotan. The tipster had already contacted the local Sheriff's Department, as well as authorities in Arizona, but complained that neither law enforcement agency seemed particularly interested in the information, Mankin said. On the other hand, Mankin was very interested and, with the help of private investigator Sam Brower and writer Jon Krakauer, author of Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith, which details the history, beliefs, and rise of Mormon fundamentalism, tracked down the location of the Black Hills compound.
Meanwhile, back on the Eldorado property, dubbed the Yearning for Zion Ranch, Mankin says construction continues unabated. An estimated 60,000-square-foot temple – the first ever built by the FLDS – has been completed, additional residential buildings are going up, and the sect has put up a 280,000-gallon water storage tank (enough to sustain a population of 2,800 people, Mankin says).
Mankin says he's not at all surprised to learn about the South Dakota property – the real question, he says, "is how many others are there?"