Warren Jeffs’ nephew charged with kidnapping
SALT LAKE CITY –
Utah has filed kidnapping charges against imprisoned polygamist leader Warren Jeffs’ nephew, saying he and his sister’s 10-year-old daughter disappeared, apparently to keep the girl away from her mother on orders from Jeffs since the Texas jail.
In court documents filed Monday in Piute County, prosecutors said Heber Jeffs, 54, had babysat his niece at his home in Kingston, Utah, since his uncle said earlier this year that he had received a revelation from God commanding his followers to « gather together ». the women of the community « and prepare to move to a place or places as directed by Warren Jeffs », or his son, Helaman Jeffs.
Warren Jeffs is the president of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The faith is an offshoot of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, widely known as the Mormon Church, and espouses polygamy. He’s always been based in a small town that straddles the Utah-Arizona line. The mainstream church disavowed polygamy over a century ago.
Since being found guilty of child sexual abuse charges stemming from underage marriages, Warren Jeffs has continued to serve as the group’s prophet from a Texas federal prison where he is serving a life sentence.
Prosecutors said Heber Jeffs and his wife Sarah have cared for their niece, who is not named in court documents, since she was a baby, ever since her parents separated. Rose Jeffs, the girl’s mother who is no longer a member of the FLDS, has been granted regular visits and « full and free access to see her daughter » until August. At that time, Heber Jeffs told her that he would not allow any more visits.
Court documents point to the revelation as a primary reason, claiming that Warren Jeffs « ordered or directed that female members of the FLDS leave their current employment and activities and ‘assemble’ (essentially ‘shelter in place’) », potentially in preparation for the lifting of a multi-year, community-wide ban on marriage or childbearing. They said Jeffs’ revelation ordered men in the community to send construction labor money to leaders « pending further instructions. »
Rose Jeffs, according to court documents, then demanded to take her daughter back, at which point Heber Jeffs said he planned to cut off communication. A month later, when law enforcement began pursuing Heber Jeffs, they could not find him in his home or the places where he had worked. The court has issued a warrant for his arrest and he remains free with the 10-year-old girl.
Court documents did not list an attorney for Jeffs, and a phone number listed for his home in Kingston, Utah, was out of service.
The charges come weeks after federal prosecutors filed kidnapping charges against members of another polygamous group that split from the FLDS after Jeffs was incarcerated. In that case, prosecutors said supporters of Sam Bateman, a self-proclaimed prophet who poses as Jeffs’ successor in a small splinter group, scared away three women with foster children after his arrest this fall.