The nephew of an infamous Utah polygamist was arrested by state and federal agents in North Dakota for allegedly kidnapping a 10-year-old girl, multiple law enforcement agencies said Monday.
The 10-year-old girl in question is now safe and will be reunited with her mother, her father told Salt Lake City-based Fox affiliate KSTU.
“She’s safe, she’s found,” Dowayne Barlow told the TV station.
Heber Jeffs, the nephew of imprisoned Mormon sect leader Warren Jeffs, is currently being detained by the Ward County Sheriff’s Department in Minot, North Dakota, a deputy there told Law&Crime.
“We are only holding Mr. Jeffs until he is extradited to Utah,” Chief Deputy Major Larry Hubbard said in an email. “We were not involved in the arrest, that was the US Marshalls, HSI, and the ND BCI. We have no other information or documents concerning Jeffs.”
Heber Jeffs was booked into the Ward County Detention Center on Feb. 11, on a warrant out of Piute County, Utah, on one count of child kidnapping in the first degree, the WCSD said in a press release obtained by Law&Crime. On Feb. 13, Jeffs waived extradition during a brief hearing before Ward County District Court Judge Todd Cresap.
“Piute County has been advised Mr. Jeffs is in custody and awaiting transfer,” the North Dakota press release says.
The rescued girl had been missing since December 2022.
In charging documents obtained by KSTU, Piute County prosecutors alleged that Heber Jeffs kidnapped the girl in response to an August 2022 “revelation” from his uncle. Warren Jeffs still allegedly controls the Fundamentalist LDS church from a prison cell in Texas where he is serving a life sentence after being convicted of child sexual assault charges for arranging marriages between children and adults.
“Through Warren Jeffs’ revelation he commanded or ordered that the FLDS female members should quit their current employment or activities and ‘gather’ (essentially ‘shelter in place’) and prepare to move to a location or locations (unknown to your Affiant) as directed by Warren Jeffs and/or Helaman Jeffs,” an affidavit obtained by the TV station last year reads. Helaman Jeffs is one of the FLDS leader’s sons and is recognized as a figure of authority within the sect.
The girl’s mother reportedly dismissed the Jeffs decree.
But the girl was allegedly under the care of Heber Jeffs, who is also her uncle, at the time the leader’s decision came down.
According to the affidavit, the girl’s mother, Rose Jeffs, was advised that Heber Jeffs “was cutting her off, and that she would ‘not be allowed access to her child unless she was going to get back in the Church (FLDS) by writing to Helaman Jeffs or Warren Jeffs.’”
Heber Jeffs allegedly kept the girl at his home in Kingston, Utah, according to court documents obtained by CBS News.
The girl’s uncle had reportedly been the primary caretaker for the girl since her parents broke up when she was an infant. For years, the girl’s mother agreed to the arrangement, prosecutors said, and was allowed full visitation rights until she disagreed with the August revelation. Rose Jeffs had legal custody of her daughter throughout, prosecutors noted.
The girl’s mother has since left the FLDS church.
When Rose Jeffs demanded her brother return her child, prosecutors allege, he cut off communication. Eventually, those court documents say, he realized police were looking for him and went on the lam.
“This has been a really rollercoaster-y experience,” the girl’s father told KSTU. “It’s been exhausting. We’re not the only family that’s been affected by having their children taken by the FLDS. And being taken to remote areas and hidden up. And putting parents through a hell of an experience of agonizing concern.”
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