RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) -In the fall of 2021, Marty and Jen Mechaley had no idea their lives were about to change when they met 10 strangers in Custer, and they never would’ve guessed they’d be taking these girls into their home, saving them from the only life they’d ever known.
“Our house was the first time they’d ever gone and visited with anybody,” said Mart Mechlaey, who is the Custer County sheriff.
It only took four months of communication before their home was full of guests who had never watched a movie, worn jeans, or cut their own hair. These fateful house guests were former members of the Fundamentalists of Latter Day Saints Mormon church, The 10 young girls sought protection, safety, and most importantly, a better life. Marty Mechaley first met the girls at the Pringle compound in 2021. The girls immediately looked to him and his wife, Jen, for advice.
“They just kept starting to come and see us and starting to text me all the time and ask me lots of questions about life in general, you know they just didn’t know, Thousands of texts later and then they just kept asking questions until one day they asked us if we could help them leave the FLDS,” Jen Mechaley said.
Marty Mechlay became the Custer County sheriff in 2017. He made it his mission to get involved with the FLDS compound, starting communication with the church once again after it had ceased when Warren Jeffs, the church’s leader, was arrested in 2006.
“We never told them to leave the FLDS. We always told them we’ll be your friends. One girl was going to be sent away and she was going to leave and she had no place to go. So, my wife and I discussed it and we discussed it with our children, who are all grown up now and everybody came to the agreement that we need to help her,” Marty Mechaley stated.
The rescue did not come easily to the sheriff’s department.
“We just tried to keep it very quiet so the FLDS didn’t learn about it and then eventually one day we had more people who wanted to leave. The rest of them said ‘we need to leave to can you help us?’” says Jen.
The ten girls, all over the age of 18, then came to live with the Mechaley’s in their Custer home, allowing the pair to teach them about a world they were so unfamiliar with.
“We had to take baby steps to earn their trust. They would walk around with us and they’d have to engage with people and have conversation with them and watching them grow where they could do that was a very wonderful thing to see that they could talk to people now and not be scared of everybody.” said the sherriff.
Even though the girls have since branched out on their own, the Mechaleys still make sure to keep in contact with all of them every day,
“They’re all out of the FLDS. They’re not going back. They’re getting on with their lives. They’re going to be happy. We’re always, probably for the rest of our lives, going to help one way or the other.”
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