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Canadian parents convicted of taking daughter to marry Warren Jeffs receive mix of sympathy and scorn

First Published      Last Updated Feb 05 2017 10:08 pm


Polygamy » Couple face up to five years in jail, but their son says they were only following prophet’s orders.

A son is hoping the judge goes easy on his father.

Others are hoping he and his wife go to jail for what they did — take their 13-year-old daughter to the Utah-Arizona line to marry then 48-year-old Warren Jeffs, a polygamist and president of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Brandon J. Blackmore and Emily Gail Crossfield Blackmore were convicted Friday in Cranbrook, B.C., of removing a child from the country for sexual purposes. British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Paul Pearlman, who issued the verdict after a bench trial held in November and December, has scheduled sentencing for April 13. The couple faces up to five years imprisonment.




Pearlman acquitted James Oler, a former bishop of the FLDS enclave in British Columbia, who was accused of taking his 15-year-old daughter to marry a 24-year-old man in Mesquite, Nev. The Canadian Press reported that Pearlman didn't find enough evidence that Oler crossed the border with his daughter.

That marriage, and the marriage of the Blackmore daughter to Jeffs, happened in 2004.

"To me those girls were raped," said Andrew Chatwin, a former FLDS member who lives in Colorado City, Ariz., and has cousins married to men in the Canadian community.

Chatwin wants the two convicted defendants to go to jail.

But Brandon S. Blackmore, who testified in the trial against his father and stepmother, hopes they receive leniency. The son has said they were doing what they were told to do by their prophet. It was Oler who was in a leadership position and helped facilitate the trafficking of girls, Brandon S. Blackmore said in a online chat with The Salt Lake Tribune on Friday.

"I really do hope the judge takes into consideration the fact that my dad has already suffered a lot," the son wrote. "He has been cast out from the [FLDS] and his home and family."

The father used to have five wives, and has 40 children. The FLDS excommunicated him when the Royal Canadian Mounted Police started its investigation, and he now lives alone in a hamlet in southeast British Columbia.

Brandon S. Blackmore said his father was discouraged after the verdict. His father told him the majority of his family was in the courtroom to hear Pearlman read the verdict, but they wouldn't look at him or acknowledge him.

"I think that hurt him worse than the conviction," Brandon S. Blackmore wrote.

Rebecca Musser also testified in the trial. She was married to Jeffs' father, Rulon Jeffs, and has helped U.S. and Canadian law enforcement decipher FLDS documents that have been used to convict defendants in both countries.

Musser hopes the convictions tell the FLDS that members can no longer force girls into marriage.

"I think it sends a strong message," Musser said. "It's definitely on their mind."

After the verdict Friday, she recalled sitting in the witness box and seeing Oler and Gail Blackmore reading scriptures while she testified and the lawyers talked.

Oler and Gail Blackmore did not have attorneys, and did not challenge the prosecution, Musser said. The judge appointed advocates to present law favorable to them and to challenge the prosecution.

Brandon J. Blackmore, who had an attorney, was excused from court for what a doctor wrote was a condition that did not allow the defendant to sit for long periods of time.

Musser wondered whether the three would take their underage daughters to get married again, if ordered.

"I honestly think they would," Musser said, "and that's the sad reality."

As for punishment, Musser said she wants what "the law deems fair."

Chatwin, who said he knew all three defendants about 20 years ago, said he has some sympathy for the two who were convicted since they risked excommunication and the loss of their friends and family if they refused an order from the prophet, but he said that doesn't alleviate the pair of responsibility. "They should have been a mother bear and father bear and packed up their whole family and left," he said.

Nancy Mereska, who operates the Stop Polygamy in Canada Society, said she was "relieved" at the two guilty verdicts.

"Perhaps more charges will come from the wealth of evidence," she wrote in an email. "These people do not stop. They truly believe they have a right to live above/beyond the law."

Oler will be on trial again April 10 in Cranbrook. He and another former FLDS bishop, Winston Blackmore, are charged with polygamy.

The girl who married Jeffs, Millie Blackmore, was missing for years to family who no longer belong to the FLDS, but she was found to be living with her mother shortly before the trial started. It is unknown where Oler's daughter, Carma Elaine Oler, is residing.

ncarlisle@sltrib.com

Twitter: @natecarlisle

 

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