Officials keep eye on sect land near Mancos

Rock Mountain News/April 11, 2008

Montezuma County authorities are keeping an eye on property near Mancos owned by the same religious sect whose Texas compound was raided last week, but they have no reason to believe anything illegal is happening there, Sheriff Gerald Wallace said Thursday.

"There's not a lot of activity," Wallace said of the two parcels located deep in southwest Colorado's San Juan National Forest. "We have not even seen any women or children."

Members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints bought land - a 60-acre parcel and a 40-acre parcel - northwest of Mancos in 2003 and 2004.

At the time they told local authorities they were building a hunting retreat.

That was the same explanation FLDS leaders gave for their 1,700-acre property in Eldorado, Texas, authorities said.

Wallace said that at the Mancos properties, which are about a quarter-mile apart, authorities have never seen more than a dozen men at one time.

They usually are doing construction, he said.

But what exactly is going on, authorities aren't sure.

The property is secluded and any activity occurs far back from the main road and out-of-sight. The land is surrounded by barbed-wire cattle fences, and men are working on building a bigger fence, Wallace said.

There are locked gates at all entrances to the land, and a guard travels the perimeter of the property on an all-terrain vehicle.

Both properties were bought by David Allred, son-in-law of Warren Jeffs, the polygamist leader or "prophet" of the FLDS. Jeffs was sentenced last year to 10 years in prison for using his religious influence to coerce a 14-year-old follower to marry her 19-year-old cousin.

Allred also was listed as the buyer of the land in Eldorado, Texas.

The sect also has property in Arizona, Utah and Canada, police said.

The Colorado land now is owned by two corporate entities related to the church, authorities say.

Though Davis has not been allowed on the property to assess it, the office has estimated its current value at $3.1 million.

The sect paid $1.4 million for the parcels, records show.

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