KINGSTON, Piute County — A nephew of imprisoned cult leader Warren Jeffs is accused of taking his sister's young daughter and not allowing her to be returned to her biological parents.
Heber Pearson Jeffs, 54, of Kingston, Piute County, was charged Monday in 6th District Court with child kidnapping, a first-degree felony, and a warrant has been issued for his arrest.
A Hildale, Washington County, couple gave birth to a daughter in 2012. But within the first year, they asked Jeffs — who is the brother of the girl's mother — and his wife to care for their daughter while they were in the process of splitting up, according to charging documents.
The parents ended up separating. The mother moved to Cache County with her four other children while the father moved to Arizona.
Over the next decade, the young girl continued to live with Jeffs, but her biological parents "had full and unrestricted access to her," which included taking her to visit her siblings in Cache County, according to the charges.
Jeffs' uncle is Warren Jeffs, whom many Fundamentalist LDS Church members still recognize as the leader of the polygamous group. Heber Jeffs has remained an active member of the FLDS Church, but the girl's biological parents are no longer active in the church and do not "recognize Warren Jeffs as having any power or control over" them or their children, the charges state.
In 2011, Warren Jeffs was sentenced to life in prison in Texas for sexually assaulting two underage followers he took as brides in what his church deemed "spiritual marriages." Despite being incarcerated, Jeffs has continued to issue "revelations" to his followers.
In charging documents filed Monday, prosecutors allege that Warren Jeffs announced another revelation earlier this year and "commanded or ordered that the FLDS female members should quit their current employment and activities and 'gather' (essentially 'shelter in place') and prepare to move to a location or locations (unknown to prosecutors) as directed by Warren Jeffs or Helaman Jeffs."
The charges also contend that Warren Jeffs has "delegated some or all of his authority to his son," Helaman Jeffs.
Additionally, all male FLDS members have been ordered to "pursue work (primarily construction work) collectively and send monies" either to Helaman Jeffs or to the female members who are "gathered," charging documents state, "pending further direction or orders from Warren Jeffs and/or Helaman Jeffs."
Prosecutors also allege in the court documents that it is believed that Warren Jeffs "has forbidden female members of the FLDS Church to marry or bear children for several years now, and that this edict is to remain in place until Warren Jeffs states otherwise." It is believed that female members are being told to "gather" and male members being told to "work" in preparation for the lifting of the "nonmarriage edict," the charges state.
The girl's mother says that until August — or about the time the edict was made — she had full access to her daughter. But starting in early August, Heber Jeffs told the mother that his wife was no longer around to take care of the young girl, according to charging documents, and that "he was taking care of her now."
On Aug. 3, Jeffs told the girl's mother that "circumstances have changed and I am going (to) change things from the way you and (my wife) had it set up," the charges state, adding that he also told the mother that he wasn't "cutting her off" from her daughter, but that he "just wants to do things differently now."
"The mother asserts that she believes (Heber Jeffs) received directives from either Helaman Jeffs or Warren Jeffs as to why she was not allowed to access her daughter," according to the charges.
The mother went to Heber Jeffs' home on Aug. 5 to take custody of her daughter. But Jeffs stood at the doorway with the young girl standing behind him and allegedly stated, "I will not give (your daughter) up except by force through law enforcement."
Heber Jeffs also stated that he would no longer be communicating with the mother, that he was "cutting her off," and that she would "not be allowed access to her child unless she was going to get back into the church by writing to Helaman Jeffs or Warren Jeffs," the charging documents allege.
The mother hired an attorney and filed for child custody. A judge issued a preliminary injunction on Sept. 21 that ordered Heber Jeffs to immediately deliver the girl to her biological parents, court records state. When the mother returned to Jeffs' home with the Piute County sheriff and a court order for her daughter to be handed over, she said she was told that Jeffs and the girl were not home, that they had been gone for about four weeks and it was unknown when he would return.
Based on that encounter, deputies listed the young girl on the National Crime Information Center, meaning if any police officer in the nation comes in contact with her, she will be taken into protective custody.
As of Sept 22, the whereabouts of Heber Jeffs were unknown, the court documents say. A warrant for his arrest was issued Monday. The young girl has not been seen by her parents since Aug. 5.
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