PHOENIX — While the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was on the lam running from child sex abuse charges, the police officers who served his home community of Colorado City, Ariz. and Hildale, Utah wrote letters declaring their love and loyalty for him.
Warren Jeffs is known as the Prophet in the FLDS church, which practices polygamy and broke off from the Mormon church in the late 19th century. In 2005, Jeffs was charged with sexually assaulting a minor and arranging underage marriages in the church. He went on the run and was listed on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list.
Jeffs was ultimately convicted of related crimes in 2011 and is serving a life sentence in a Texas prison.
But while Jeffs was still a wanted fugitive, Colorado City-Hildale Marshal Fred Barlow affirmed his love for Jeffs and invited Jeffs to give him advice. “I hope to hear any direction that you have for me.”
Another marshal, Mica Barlow wrote, “I want to be an extension of you in the police department or whatever you would have me be.”
The Colorado City mayor at the time, Richard Allred, wrote “I humbly submit to do your will in everything” and “I welcome any instructions and guidance in my life, my family my work…”
FBI Agent Robert Foster testified about these letters in Phoenix federal court on Thursday. He is a witness for the U.S. Department of Justice in a civil rights trial against the towns of Colorado City and Hildale, which began this week. The Justice Department is accusing the towns of being controlled by the FLDS and discriminating against church outsiders by denying them housing, utilities and fair policing.
Foster told the jury these letters were among a stash found in a car driven by Jeffs’ younger brother Seth. The younger Jeffs was arrested in October 2005 in Colorado. The FBI also recovered phones, laptops, a mason jar with Warren Jeffs’ picture and the label “Pennies for the Prophet,” and $200,000 in cash and checks from the car.
Foster said before the letters were discovered he had asked Colorado City marshals for their help locating Jeffs. He said the officers never disclosed they had a form of communicating with the fugitive.
Foster said Mica Barlow had told him then, “If I knew where he was I would help you.”
Defense lawyers for the cities have not yet cross examined Foster. In its opening statement to the jury Wednesday, the defense said there had been problems in the mid-2000s that had since been fixed. The marshals who wrote the letters are no longer on the force.
Another Justice Department witness, Dowayne Barlow, testified about backroom meetings he used to attend when he was an FLDS church member and an assistant to Bishop Lyle Jeffs, another brother of Warren Jeffs. Barlow said church leaders would tell Colorado City and Hildale officials what to do, and decide who should hold office, and who should be police.
“The co-mingling of the church and the cities, there is no line between,” Dowayne Barlow said in an interview with KJZZ after he finished testifying. “There is no city office appointed, there is no city council there is no city marshal, there is no city clerk, there is no head of a department that is not a church appointment and calling.”
Barlow also testified about church policies that involved separating families. Church leaders could decide to strip men of their wives and children, and reassign them to someone else. Barlow said those family separations ultimately prompted him to leave the church. He now describes himself as a devout Fundamentalist Mormon.
He blames the leadership of Warren and Lyle Jeffs for shattering the community.
“Everything the Jeffs has brought has been control, animosity, hurt, harm,” Barlow said.
Barlow said he had some concerns FLDS church leaders might retaliate against him for his testimony. He no longer lives in the community, but has family members who are still there, including a daughter he says the church separated him from.
But he said despite those fears, he felt it was important to testify.
“I want to be honest,” Barlow said. “I am not going to hide these Jeffs boys. I’m not, I can’t. I really wouldn’t hide anything. If it is not right, not virtuous, we really don’t want any part of it.”
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