New lawsuit filed against Jeffs

Deseret Morning News, Utah/May 1, 2007
By Ben Winslow

Wendell Musser loyally served Fundamentalist LDS Church leader Warren Jeffs — and paid for it with his family.

He has filed a lawsuit against Jeffs in St. George's 5th District Court, accusing the polygamous sect leader of alienation of affection, interference with parental obligations, emotional distress and invasion of privacy.

Musser was a faithful follower of Jeffs. At age 19, he was given a bride — 17-year-old Vivian Barlow.

"On April 1, 2004, Warren performed Wendell and Vivian's 'spiritual marriage,' without a marriage license, in a room at the Holiday Inn Express in Kanab, Utah," Musser's lawyer, Roger Hoole, wrote in the lawsuit filed last week. "Warren also commanded Wendell and Vivian to multiply and replenish the earth and to raise up good priesthood children."

Although it was an arranged marriage, Musser claims in the lawsuit that he and Vivian fell in love. In July 2005, the couple had a child — a bright eyed, smiling boy named Levi.

In December 2005, Wendell Musser was called on a "mission." He was to be a courier for Warren Jeffs and a caretaker for several of the FLDS leader's wives.

"Over the next seven months, Wendell and his family lived in secret homes located in Williamsburg, Florence and West Cliff, Colorado assisting those of Warren's wives who resided at those locations," Hoole wrote.

This was about the same time Jeffs was considered a fugitive. In April 2006, he was charged in 5th District Court with rape as an accomplice, a first-degree felony. He is accused of performing a marriage between a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin.

A short time later, Jeffs was elevated to the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list. He stayed on the list until his capture in August 2006 during a traffic stop outside Las Vegas.

The lawsuit claims the stress of caring for the fugitive leader's wives took its toll. Occasionally, Musser would drink and was once arrested for DUI.

"That mistake was enough for the Prophet to separate Wendell from his family," Hoole wrote.

Jeffs' brother, Lyle Jeffs, told Musser he was being stripped of his priesthood and was to leave his family, return to the polygamous communities of Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Ariz., and write letters of repentance to the prophet.

It got worse, the lawsuit alleges.

"Within a few days of returning to Short Creek, Lyle further informed Wendell that since he did not have the priesthood, the Prophet has commanded that Vivian and Levi were no longer his," Hoole wrote.

Musser began searching for his wife and son, going back to the Colorado homes — only to find them vacant. He has written a letter to Jeffs, who is being held in the Purgatory Jail, but it has gone unanswered.

Vivian and Levi Musser's whereabouts remain a mystery, Hoole claims.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and makes new allegations that Jeffs held himself out to be a "false prophet."

The lawsuit claims that as a result of several incapacitating strokes suffered by FLDS leader Rulon Jeffs in the late-1990s, Warren Jeffs gradually took over his father's duties, becoming the "mouthpiece." Hoole alleges Jeffs falsely proclaimed himself to be the prophet and president of the FLDS Church and the president of the United Effort Plan Trust (the church's financial arm).

"Notwithstanding the fact that Warren represented and held himself out as the prophet of God, he knew that he was not and never had been the prophet," he wrote, adding that Jeffs hid this from the FLDS people.

The Deseret Morning News has reported that Jeffs abdicated his role as leader of the FLDS Church in a tape-recorded conversation with his brother at the Purgatory Jail in January, and again in a note he tried to give to the judge handling his criminal case in March.

Jeffs' defense attorneys have repeatedly refused to comment on the newspaper reports.

In addition to the charges in Utah, Jeffs is accused of arranging more child-bride marriages in Arizona. The FLDS leader is also facing a federal grand jury indictment accusing him of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.