Police probing sex abuse raid Colorado City homes

FLDS cases: The four searches appear related to 'spiritual' marriages to underage girls

Salt Lake City Tribune/May 26, 2006
By Brooke Adams and Mark Havnes

Colorado City, Arizona -- It is already being called the "mini-raid."

Early Thursday, a swarm of Arizona law enforcement officers descended on Colorado City armed with search warrants to gather evidence for ongoing investigations of sexual abuse.

The Mohave County Sheriff's Office said 16 deputies, detectives and an investigator participated in a simultaneous search of four homes. Colorado City and the adjoining city of Hildale, Utah, are home to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a sect that practices plural marriage.

Based on homes the deputies visited, the search appears connected to the cases of eight men charged with sex crimes related to "spiritual" marriages to underage girls.

But county officials were tight-lipped about what was going on. The sheriff's office issued a one-paragraph explanation of the search and Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith declined to elaborate.

The contingent arrived in town at about 8 a.m. Mohave County Investigator Gary Engels left David R. Bateman's home on Richard Street about two hours later carrying a cardboard box.

The deputies also spent time at two homes on Homestead Avenue, including one occupied by Dale E. Barlow. The occupant of the other home, according to ex-FLDS member Isaac Wyler, is a member of the Steed family.

According to Wyler, FLDS faithful in the two towns are already likening Thursday's police action to the 1953 raid on the polygamous community by Arizona authorities.

It was unknown who lived in a fourth home that was searched.

Besides items taken from Bateman's home, deputies gathered a second box of manila envelopes and a stack of papers. They left one home empty-handed.

The Mohave deputies were joined by deputies from Coconino County and the Colorado City Town Marshal's Office.

In addition to Bateman and Barlow, the men currently facing charges in Mohave County are Kelly Fischer; Rodney Holm; Donald R. Barlow; Vergel B. Jessop; Terry D. Barlow; and Randolph J. Barlow. All the men, members of the FLDS church, have entered not guilty pleas.

FLDS church leader Warren S. Jeffs also faces charges related to his role in authorizing and conducting "spiritual" marriages between at least one of the men and his underage bride.

The cases, filed last summer, involve girls who ranged in age from 15 to 17 between December 1998 and March 2002, when each became pregnant. In Arizona, it is a crime to engage in sexual conduct with anyone under the age of 18.

One woman, who was 16 at the time of her "spiritual marriage" to Randolph Barlow, provided testimony to a Mohave County Grand Jury.

Two cases were set for trial in June but Bruce Griffen, the men's defense attorney, requested a continuance because a murder trial he is involved in is taking longer than expected. That means the first trial will probably take place in early July.

Tribune reporter Nate Carlisle contributed to this report.

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