Authorities use search warrant to enter property

Wet Mountain Tribune, Colorado/July 10, 2008

With a search warrant in hand, local authorities accompanied Custer County zoning director Jackie Hobby to the FLDS compound in Bull Domingo last week to check for possible building and zoning violations. The Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints compound was inspected last Thursday, July 3.

Custer County sheriff Fred Jobe said he went with Hobby to the compound at her request. Hobby told the Tribune she asked for a police escort because the last time she inspected the FLDS compound she felt uncomfortable going alone.

A search warrant was executed to allow Jobe and undersheriff Craig Feldmann to escort Hobby after the two officers were denied entrance.

Jobe said on July 1, he hand delivered papers to those inside the compound stating at least one officer with the sheriff's office would accompany Hobby on the zoning inspection slated for July 3.

Soon after, said Jobe, the sheriff's office received a phone call and letter from FLDS attorney Daniel Smith of Denver stating Hobby was welcome on the property, however, law enforcement officials were not.

County judge Peter Michaelson signed the warrant. The warrant allowed law enforcement to accompany Hobby, however, it did not give law enforcement authorities permission to search for possible signs of criminal activity.

"Of course," said Jobe, "had we seen any criminal activity in plain sight we could have taken action. But that was not the case. We saw no criminal activity."

However, Hobby did find building and zoning violations. According to Hobby, the current septic system on the 35-acre parcel is not in compliance and various smaller structures have been built without securing a zoning permit.

Hobby said the current septic system is designed for use by no more than four people in the household and there are more than four people living on site. As a result, the FLDS group has 30 days to show they are moving toward compliance. Compliance, noted Hobby, is an engineer- designed system. As for building without a permit, the group must apply for a zoning permit and they will have to pay three times the regular fee.

A certified letter stating the violations and the required steps to correct them will be sent to the group.

For the last two years, members of the FLDS have been acquiring land in Custer County.

In addition to the 35 acres in Bull Domingo, local records indicate the group has purchased two 80-acre lots off Hermit Lane west of Kettle lane. And, suspected FLDS members are renting a single family dwelling on Verdemont Road.

Additional FLDS compounds are also believed to be in Fremont County.

Since learning of the suspected FLDS presence in the Valley, the county commissioners and sheriff's office have been monitoring the situation to make sure no laws are being violated.

In recent years, the FLDS church has come under fire by federal authorities for alleged polygamist cult activities, as well as abuse of children and women.

The group's leader, Warren Jeffs, is currently serving at least 10 years in prison after being convicted on two counts of being an accomplice to rape. Jeffs is also awaiting trial in Arizona on similar charges.

Members of the FLDS should not be confused with the Amish and Mennonite families living here.

It is believed the executive session the commissioners held during their regular meeting on Tuesday, July 1, to address a security/investigation matter and to confer with county attorney John Naylor was about the possible zoning violations and subsequent search warrant as Jobe and Hobby were invited to attend the closed door session.

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