Ex-follower: Sect leader took my family away

Associated Press/May 2, 2007

Salt Lake City, Utah -- A lawsuit against the head of a polygamy-practicing church demands information about the family that a man contends was taken from him as punishment for his lack of faith.

Attorneys for Wendell Musser filed the civil lawsuit in district court against Warren Jeffs, head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Church members believe polygamy will bring them glorification in heaven.

Jeffs, 51, is being held on two first-degree felony charges of rape as an accomplice for his alleged role in marrying a 14-year-old church girl to her 19-year-old cousin in 2001. No trial date is set.

A call seeking comment Tuesday from Jeffs' criminal attorneys, Wally Bugden and Tara Isaacson, was not immediately returned.

Court documents in support of the lawsuit, filed Friday, say Musser worked for Jeffs as a family caretaker, living in hiding at various locations in Colorado to protect several of Jeffs' wives.

But Musser says he was cast out of the fold after being arrested for investigation of drunken driving in 2006 and was forced to leave his wife Vivian and infant son Levi behind.

According to court papers, Musser was refused contact with his family and was later told that his wife and son had been assigned to a more worthy man in the church.

Musser, 22, wants a court to force Jeffs to tell him where his wife and child are living so they can be reunited. Musser contends he has spent months visiting the Colorado homes where his family lived with Jeffs' wives, but that none are now occupied by FLDS church members. Musser lives in an undisclosed city in Idaho.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages.

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