Videotape reveals Jeffs' mannerisms

4-hour record provided to News may help in search for the FLDS leader

Deseret Morning News/April 13, 2006
By Ben Winslow

To the world outside the Fundamentalist LDS Church, he has been known only as the fugitive polygamous prophet. The photographs show a warm, patriarchal smile betraying what authorities contend is Warren Jeffs' cruel legacy of child bride marriages, the dissolution of families, the excommunications and the bleeding of a community's financial resources.

Now, law enforcement want a purported videotape of Jeffs that shows him moving about as he speaks.

The Deseret Morning News has obtained a copy of rare videotape of fugitive Fundamentalist LDS Church leader Warren Jeffs.

"It's the first video I've heard of," Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said Wednesday. "I've heard of lots of (audio) tape recordings, but not a video of him."

The video, which is nearly four hours long, was provided to the Deseret Morning News by a source who wished to remain anonymous because of family who remain within the FLDS Church. The source contacted a reporter hoping to publicize Jeffs' moving images and assist police in apprehending the polygamist leader who is on the FBI's Most Wanted List.

"Hearing his voice with the pictures, his mannerisms. If that'll help them (law enforcement), that's all I care about," said the source, who also was said to be providing a copy to the Utah Attorney General's Office.

Shurtleff said if his office obtained a copy of the videotape, he would forward it to the FBI.

"To have some actual motion pictures would be very helpful. We've been using a pretty old photo anyway," he said.The video was shot in 1993 when Jeffs was principal of the Alta Academy, a now defunct FLDS school at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon. The tape is old, it skips at times and the colors bleed a little. Dozens of FLDS children sit in a room, waiting to be entertained by the musical program.

Jeffs is the master of ceremonies for a children's program of skits and musical performances. He stands before the microphone, a tall man wearing a dark suit and thick glasses. His dark hair is combed back and he walks slightly hunched over.

"I want you young ones to be sure to be quiet. Don't talk out. Listen," he tells a room full of young children. "We always begin programs with prayer. Even in our fun, we remember Heavenly Father. That's what we want you to have today."

The little children shift excitedly in their chairs, looking around the room.

Jeffs chastises some children in the back of the room for climbing on an organ.

"I will say the prayer to begin with," Jeffs says. "Please close your eyes, fold your arms."

After the curtain parts, teenage girls dressed in pioneer-style flower print dresses, their hair in long braids and boys in checkered shirts and dark colored denim pants stand and sing. The children are entertained by skits about eating too much, Cinderella, the Three Bears and musical numbers by their fellow students playing the violin, trumpet and clarinet.

Before each skit, Jeffs introduces the next number. Midway through the children's program, he pops out, wearing a Groucho Marx nose and eyebrows over his thick glasses. A ballcap on his head is tilted slightly.

"Thank you! Thank you! Oh, thank you, ladies and gentlemen!" he says, excitedly. "I am going to play a violin song and you are going to sing along!"

With that, the man who would become prophet uses a toy violin to lead the children in a rendition of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star."

"Sing it! Louder! Louder!" he shouts to the kids as he leads them through "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and "Frere Jacque." The children applaud excitedly. Jeffs did not repeat that number when the skits were performed for adults later that afternoon. In that portion of the tape, men can be seen sitting in the audience with their wives. Like any other elementary school production, parents stand to take photos of their kids.

Sitting behind Jeffs as he conducts a choir of teenagers is an older man who appears to be Rulon Jeffs, who led the FLDS Church until his death in 2002 at age 92. A polygamist rumored to have as many as 75 wives and dozens of children, Rulon Jeffs was succeeded by his son, Warren.

Now, Warren Jeffs remains a fugitive on the run. He faces rape-as-an-accomplice charges in Washington County, for allegedly forcing a teenage girl into a "spiritual" marriage with an older man. In 2005, Jeffs was charged in Mohave County, Ariz., with sexual misconduct related to arranging child bride marriages.

The FLDS leader is on the FBI's Most Wanted List. Utah and Arizona authorities are offering a $60,000 reward for information leading to Jeffs' arrest. Authorities believe FLDS Church faithful are sending money to help keep him on the run.

"It really is different than any other fugitive situation," Shurtleff said. "This guy has a network of support and cash and phones and aliases. You've got people working very hard to hide him."

The polygamous church has enclaves in Hildale, Utah; Colorado City, Ariz.; Eldorado, Texas; Pringle, S.D. and Bountiful, British Columbia in Canada.

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff told the Deseret Morning News he met with Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard in Park City on Tuesday to discuss the lack of progress in the search for Jeffs. Both men plan to meet with the FBI and the U.S. Attorneys for Utah and Arizona to discuss ways to expand the manhunt.

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