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Trial to begin in Canada for polygamists who sent daughters to marry in the U.S.

First Published      Last Updated Feb 03 2017 03:39 pm

Courts » It may be the first time polygamists in Canada have been put on trial for allegedly facilitating a daughter’s underage marriage.

On March 1, 2004, a Canadian man, one of his wives and their 13-year-old daughter walked into offices in Colorado City, Ariz.

Brandon J. Blackmore, Emily Gail Crossfield Blackmore and their daughter Millie had been sent for by Warren Jeffs, the president of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Later that day, Jeffs, who was 48 at the time and would go on to marry 81 wives, married Millie in a spiritual ceremony, according to the church's records.

"And there Mildred Marlene Blackmore, age 13, was sealed to Warren Steed Jeffs for time and all eternity," Jeffs dictated into his priesthood records. The record also notes Brandon Blackmore was a witness.

Those priesthood records and other documents from the sect will be used by Canadian authorities to prosecute Blackmore and Crossfield Blackmore in a trial that is to start Tuesday in Cranbrook, British Columbia.

They and another Canadian who will be tried with them, former FLDS bishop James Oler, each are charged with one count of removing a child from Canada for the purposes of sex or sexual exploitation. They face up to five years in prison if convicted.

It's thought to be the first time polygamists in Canada have been put on trial for allegedly facilitating a daughter's underage marriage or the sex that followed.

"What I'm very sorry about is only these people are charged because there were so many others involved in shipping [additional] kids down" to be married, said Nancy Mereska, an Alberta resident and founder of the Stop Polygamy in Canada Society.

The trial figures to be the polygamy version of "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?"

Jurors will hear how FLDS members live in a region that stretches from Texas to Utah to 1,000 miles and one international border north in Lister, British Columbia.

FLDS members have resided there since the 1940s in a community they call Bountiful. It's just north of the Idaho Panhandle.

The jury also will hear about how law enforcement apprehended Jeffs as he was driving near Las Vegas in 2006 and about the 2008 raid on the Yearning For Zion Ranch in Eldorado, Texas. Much of the evidence against the Blackmores and Oler comes from records seized from Jeffs' Cadillac Escalade and from the ranch.

Those records recount Jeffs' marriage to Millie. They also recount how, on June 25, 2004, Oler's 15-year-old daughter, Carma Elaine Oler, was married in Mesquite, Nev.

According to those records, which have since been entered into court cases in British Columbia, Oler married a 15-year-old girl that day, too. Neither he nor the son-in-law he received that day, James Leroy Johnson, have been charged with any crimes in the United States.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police also are believed to have a recording of Jeffs having sex with Millie. Brandon S. Blackmore, a half brother to Millie and the son of the defendant with the similar name, confirmed to The Salt Lake Tribune on Sunday that he will testify. He will authenticate Millie's voice on the recording, and corroborate the account of some church records, he said.

One person who won't be at trial is Millie. Brandon S. Blackmore said she remains loyal to Jeffs and the church and is unwilling to testify.

"She is really brainwashed," Brandon S. Blackmore said.

A lawyer representing the elder Brandon Blackmore did not return calls seeking comment. The British Columbia Ministry of Justice, through a spokesman, declined to comment. Investigators for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police did not respond to messages seeking comment.

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