Jeffs stays mum on whereabouts of toddler

Judge may now begin issuing penalties until the tot's father can get some answers

The Salt Lake Tribune/July 28, 2007
By Brooke Adams

Polygamous sect leader Warren S. Jeffs offered no information about the whereabouts of a former follower's toddler son during a jailhouse interview on Friday.

Now, attorneys may seek to compel Jeffs to testify about the child before a Utah judge.

Attorneys for Wendell Musser, a former caretaker for Jeffs' family, spent an hour with Jeffs at the Purgatory Correctional Facility in Hurricane. They left with no leads on Musser's former wife Vivian Barlow or the couple's son, Levi.

When asked to identify the couple in a photograph, Jeffs "basically stopped answering questions," said Roger Hoole, who, with his brother Greg Hoole, represents Musser. "From that point on, he wouldn't answer any questions related to where Wendell's son is or how he could be located."

Hoole said Jeffs read a prepared statement that said he would not give answers because they might be self-incriminating.

"My view is it was an inappropriate response at this point, but that's up to a judge to decide," Roger Hoole said.

Musser, 22, was cut off from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and his family on Jeffs' orders last year after he was arrested for driving while intoxicated. Musser's efforts to locate his family proved futile and he turned to the legal system, suing Jeffs for interference with his parental rights.

Jeffs had one of his attorneys, Richard Wright, with him Friday. The sect leader was "very cordial and congenial," Roger Hoole said. The Hooles brought a court reporter to record the interview. They also were accompanied by Sam Brower, a private investigator who has helped in civil and criminal investigations involving Jeffs. Hoole said one option now may be to have Jeffs testify about the situation before 5th District Judge James L. Shumate.

Shumate already approved a number of actions that could be taken if Jeffs refused to provide Musser with information about his son, including assessing a $600-plus daily penalty on the sect leader's jail commissary account.

There is no cap on how much money an inmate may hold in an account at Purgatory, according to Mary Reep, jail commander. The amount an inmate may spend at the commissary ranges from $10 to $50 a week, depending on their classification at the jail. However, inmates may purchase an unlimited amount of pre-paid telephone cards.

Reep would not disclose any information about Jeffs' jailhouse finances.

Shumate also said Musser may lay claim to items found with Jeffs when he was arrested last August, including cash and electronic equipment. He also may pursue seizure of personal and real property of others found to be interfering with his parental rights, the judge ruled.

Jeffs enlisted Musser as a caretaker in December 2005. Musser, accompanied by his family, spent seven months looking after some of the FLDS leader's plural wives in various safe houses in Colorado.

Filing the lawsuit led to a brief meeting between Musser and Barlow, 20, in May. She refused to let him hold their son and told Musser they want nothing to do with him.

He has had no contact or information since then about Barlow or Levi, who turns 2 on Monday.

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