Keeping the cast of characters straight in any story about polygamy is bound to be complicated, because there are only a few surnames and almost everyone is related by marriage.
And so it is with the four people from Bountiful, B.C. who will appear in provincial court Thursday facing charges that include polygamy and trafficking girls for sexual purposes.
Best known is Winston Blackmore, 60, who is charged with one count of polygamy. The charismatic and clever former bishop of Bountiful has become the public face of polygamy in Canada over the last 25 years.
The father of 132 children, the names of 24 women — his so-called “celestial” or “spiritual” wives — are listed on his indictment.
Under oath during a deposition in a civil case last March in Utah, Blackmore admitted that three of his wives were 15 and 10 were under the age of 18.
Since his excommunication in 2002 from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Blackmore has led his own religious sect that consists of about 500 people, most of whom are related to him either by birth or marriage.
Blackmore recently registered the group’s name in B.C. as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which was the name used by Mormonism’s founder Joseph Smith.
With the exception of a hyphen, it is the same name used since 1838 by the mainstream Mormon church, which claims 15 million followers in 170 countries. The mainstream church — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — filed a civil suit against Blackmore in B.C. Supreme Court this spring.
Blackmore has an ongoing case in Federal Court where he is appealing a Revenue Canada reassessment that he owes more than $1.6 million in back taxes.
Blackmore’s father Ray and great-uncle Harold founded Bountiful. But soon after, Ray ousted Harold and took control of the community and the land.
Although Winston was not the oldest son, he was the favourite. After his father died, Blackmore took over running J.R. Blackmore & Sons, the family’s farm and logging operations, and became Bountiful’s spiritual leader.
Just before being named the FLDS bishop, Blackmore handed over all but a few parcels of the family’s land to the church’s United Effort Plan trust. That land remains in the trust and is under the control of a special fiduciary appointed by a Utah court in 2006 just before the arrest of FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs, who is now serving a life sentence in Texas for child-sex crimes.
Blackmore was first investigated in the late 1980s, and the RCMP recommended charges against him and Dalmon Oler, another of the community’s founders. No charges were laid because the B.C. attorney general was concerned that Canada’s polygamy law was unconstitutional.
However, he was charged in 2009 with one count of polygamy along with Oler’s son, James. Those charges were dropped due to an administrative error.
Blackmore has indicated that his defence will be to argue that polygamy is protected by the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom, even though that argument was soundly rejected in 2011 by the B.C. Supreme Court.
James Marion Oler, 50, is charged with one count of polygamy and one count of unlawful removal of a child — his daughter — from Canada for sexual purposes.
Four women are listed as wives on the polygamy indictment.
Oler has 13 children.
He is Winston Blackmore’s brother-in-law. His half-sister was Blackmore’s only legal wife.
Along with Blackmore, Oler was arrested, handcuffed and charged in 2009 with one count of polygamy, a charge that was subsequently stayed.
As one of Dalmon Oler’s 46 children, James became the FLDS bishop after Winston Blackmore’s excommunication in 2002.
Initially, Oler agreed to be a witness during the 2011 constitutional reference case. That may have had something to do with his excommunication at around the same time.
Oler was replaced as FLDS bishop by his half-brother, Ken Oler.
In 2011, Ken Oler was also excommunicated, forced out of his home and forced to leave his 20 children and two wives behind. He went to the RCMP to report that under-aged girls were being forced into religious marriages.
In March, under oath in the same Utah civil case that Blackmore gave a deposition, Ken Oler identified three girls from Bountiful as having been taken as child brides to the United States. Two were his half-sisters, who were only 15 and 16.
Excommunication also forced James Oler out of his home. At the time charges were laid, Oler was working in Alberta.
Emily Ruth (Gail) Crossfield Blackmore is charged along with her husband, Brandon Blackmore, with one count of unlawful removal from Canada of their daughter for sexual purposes.
Crossfield Blackmore’s father is a notorious polygamist prophet known as Brother Onias. He was born Robert C. Crossfield in 1929 in New Westminster, and raised in Alberta.
A convert to Mormonism, Crossfield was excommunicated by the mainstream Mormon church in 1972 for publishing a book of his revelations titled The Book of Onias. He moved to Bountiful before moving to Provo, Utah, and establishing the School of the Prophets, a group also known as The Restorers.
Crossfield’s and the group’s current whereabouts are unknown.
Among Crossfield’s followers were Dan and Ron Lafferty, who were convicted of the brutal murder of their sister-in-law and her baby. As Jon Krakauer wrote in Under the Banner of Heaven, the pair killed Brenda Lafferty believing that the only way she could be forgiven for her “sin” of refusing to allow her husband to take a second wife was “blood atonement.”
Brandon James Blackmore is one of Winston’s sons. He has five wives, including Crossfield Blackmore, and 30-some children. He and his family continued to follow Jeffs and the FLDS teachings rather than switch loyalties to his father, Winston, following his excommunication.
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