Polygamist accuser aged 14 when forced to marry relative

Associated Press/October 20, 2006

Salt Lake City -- The woman at the centre of a criminal case involving polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs was 14 when forced into a marriage with her first cousin, a source close to the case said yesterday.

At Jeffs' direction, she was married despite her objections in 2001 to the cousin, who was older than 18, the source said on condition of anonymity to protect the woman's identity.

The marriage was not polygamous, the source said.

"It was child abuse, plain and simple."

Jeffs, 50, is the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a southern Utah-based church. The sect broke away from the Mormon church more than a century ago and has been disavowed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Prosecutors charged Jeffs in April with two first-degree felony counts of rape as an accomplice for his suspected role in the marriage.

Jeffs was arrested in August during a traffic stop near Las Vegas. If convicted on both charges, he could face up to life in prison.

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