Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Where is Merrill Jessop?

You may recall my previous post "More on the FLDS leadership," in which I was trying to determine whether William Jessop (William Timmons) or Merrill Jessop was heading up operations at the Yearning for Zion Ranch in Texas.

On June 4 (while I was on vacation), this article appeared at

[Schleicher County Sheriff David] Doran said he has not seen Merrill Jessop, the presumed leader of the YFZ Ranch, since he saw him during the raid.

"My understanding is he's out of state," Doran said. "That apparently is what he has told some people. I think there's been a rotation of the leadership at the ranch. We're not seeing the faces out there that we're used to seeing."

But Molly Malone linked to an article that longer available. But here's the relevant quote:

With the custody battle concluded for now, the focus has shifted to building criminal cases against male members suspected of having underage brides — if they can be found.

Two weeks ago at their children's custody hearings, a number of mothers, including a wife of YFZ leader Merrill Jessop, testified that their spouses had disappeared, leaving no forwarding information.

A source close to the investigation said authorities believe many of the men who were at the ranch at the time of the raid have gone underground. "The vast majority have been moved," said the source, who could not be quoted by name because he is not authorized to speak publicly.

So if Merrill Jessop and the others are not in Texas, where are they? Utah/Arizona? Or perhaps Colorado?

Members of a polygamous sect have been quietly buying up property in Colorado's Custer and Fremont counties and settling in, according to the Custer County sheriff.

"We have reason to believe that they are the same organization that was in Texas that has been in the news," said Custer County Sheriff Fred Jobe....

The FLDS already has a presence in Colorado. In 2005, sect members purchased land outside Mancos, west of Durango, to build a retreat for Jeffs.

In the past two years, a senior aide to Jeffs has purchased three properties in Custer County, near the town of Westcliffe. Jobe said that one property is northeast of Westcliffe, where there is a good-size community of FLDS members. A house on a piece of property to the west of the town is also being remodeled.

And of course there's always Canada and Mexico, but FLDS members are not welcome in some Mexican polygamist communities.

“The last thing we need here [Colonia LeBaron, Chihuahua, Mexico] are a bunch of outlaws,” said Lillian Tucker, 40, a mother of 18 who practices polygamy, but is against forcing minors into marriage. “I don't recommend anyone that's committing a crime or that's using religion to become a pedophile to come down here, because they're not going to be welcome.”...

Some four hours southwest of El Paso, Texas, Colonia LeBaron is named after a polygamist who fled his native Utah in 1924 with his two wives and eight children. Alma Dayer LeBaron initially settled in Colonia Juárez, the first breakaway Mormon colony established in 1890, about 30 minutes from here.

But after polygamy was discontinued there, he moved his family to Galeana and founded what is known today as Colonia LeBaron, laying the groundwork for the Church of the Firstborn of the Fullness of Times....

Meanwhile, the charges against Warren Jeffs have been reduced:

An Arizona judge has set a July 11 date to consider whether to send four remaining charges against polygamist leader Warren Jeffs back to a grand jury for reconsideration....

Jeffs originally faced 10 charges in Arizona.

In the last three months, six of those charges have been dropped — four at the request of the defense because Arizona’s incest law doesn’t apply to Jeffs’ cases, and two at the request of the prosecution because the alleged victim refused to testify.

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