New underage marriage allegations surface against Warren Jeffs
Records seized in a raid on a polygamous sect's compound in Texas show Warren S. Jeffs allegedly took three underage Canadian girls as spiritual wives in 2004 and 2005.
The information came to light Friday as part of a case examining whether Canadian law banning polygamy is constitutional.
The fathers of two 12-year-old girls drove their daughters over the U.S. border from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints settlement of Bountiful, British Columbia, according to Texas prosecutor Eric Nichols.
After a stop at the twin towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., the girls arrived at the Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado, Texas, where they were allegedly spiritually married to Jeffs on Dec. 16, 2005.
In documents filed with the Supreme Court of British Columbia, Nichols quoted records seized in a massive raid on the YFZ Ranch in 2008. In that raid, now thought to have been sparked by a hoax call for help from a woman posing as a 16-year-old girl, authorities seized extensive evidence that has already been used to prosecute seven FLDS men on sex and bigamy charges. Five more men, including Jeffs, are awaiting trial.
More than 400 children were also taken into the custody of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, but later returned to their families.
The information on the third girl came from Texas Child Protective Services. In a letter to Canadian prosecutors, supervisor Angie Voss quotes a dictation in the "Record of President Warren Jeffs," a document seized in the raid.
"In brief ... this girl was called on a mission; and [the girl and her family] received it joyfully. And there [the girl], age 13, was sealed to Warren Steed Jeffs for time and all eternity," in Colorado City, Ariz., on March 1, 2004.
The documents don't address whether those marriages were consummated. Though Texas authorities did not immediately return messages seeking comment, the Canadian girls do not appear to be the same two victims in Jeffs' Texas sexual assault and bigamy charges. Those charges relate to an alleged spiritual marriage between Jeffs and a 12-year-old girl, and a baby that Jeffs allegedly fathered with another underage girl.
Jeffs, 55, is estimated to have at least 40 wives. He was arrested in August 2006, about a year after he was charged with arranging an underage marriage in Arizona.
Jeffs' Arizona defense attorney Michael Piccarreta said he's skeptical of evidence coming out of the Texas raid.
"I don't trust anything that comes out of Texas, I don't believe anything that comes out of Texas unless I can see, handle, taste and touch it," he said. No evidence of Jeffs being married to underage girls was presented in Arizona, he said; authorities there were communicating with their counterparts in Texas after the raid. Charges against him there were dismissed last year.
Arizona officials did not immediately return a message seeking comment on whether they were investigating the March 2004 case.