Witnesses describe quick, secret FLDS weddings

Salt Lake Tribune/July 8, 2006
By Brooke Adams

Kingman, Ariz. -- Two ex-members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints testified Thursday about a culture of secret marriages, arranged within hours, that occur only with approval of the faith's prophet and are expected to yield children.

Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith is relying on that testimony and birth certificates to make his case against Kelly Fischer, an FLDS member and Colorado City resident who fathered a child with a 16-year-old girl.

Fischer is charged with having sex with a minor and conspiracy to commit sex with a minor, both class 6 felonies punishable by four months to two years in prison or probation.

A jury is expected to begin deliberations today after hearing closing arguments by Smith and Bruce Griffen, Fischer's attorney. Seven other men face identical charges, with the next case set for trial next week.

Smith provided the jury with birth certificates that showed the girl was just over 17 when she gave birth to a child in Utah in 2001; the child's birth certificate lists Fischer, then 33, as the father.

Smith turned to former FLDS members Richard Holm and Isaac Wyler to link Fischer and the girl and draw inferences about their relationship.

Holm said his own two plural marriages occurred after he met with former prophet Rulon T. Jeffs, was told he was to be "blessed" and was then sealed to a woman within hours. Holm, who left the faith in 2003, said he had no direct experience with how current prophet Warren Jeffs conducts marriages and admitted he has no respect for the fugitive prophet. He said he didn't know the girl, but called Fischer an "honorable man."

Wyler testified that courtship and displays of affection are not allowed and marriages occur in secret. Still, he described seeing Fischer and the girl riding horses together many times, and said it "looked like to me a little bit of courting going on." Later, he saw the girl seated close to Fischer in a vehicle.

"In our religion and the way we did things up there, you'd rotate wives that was sitting by you," Wyler said. He subsequently saw the girl was pregnant.

With the jurors excused, Griffen characterized testimony from Holm and Wyler as "guess, assumption and speculation." He asked the judge to find the state had failed to make its case because it did not pin down where Fischer and the girl had sex or that anyone else was involved in arranging the union.

But Judge Steven F. Conn refused, saying he heard enough in the testimony to send the case to the jury.

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