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With Warren Jeffs' trial finished in Texas, eyes turn to Utah

Published August 10, 2011 10:17 am

Courts • Utah officials will investigate allegation unearthed in the Lone Star state.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Utah's attorney general and Washington County's prosecutor on Tuesday said they will review evidence presented during the Texas trial of Warren Jeffs to determine if there are offenses that should be charged in the Beehive State.

At least one allegation unearthed in Texas will be investigated by Utah police.

A now-28-year-old woman testified in Jeffs' sentencing phase that Jeffs molested her at age 8 when she was a student at Alta Academy, the school at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon where Jeffs was principal. The woman testified she did not report the abuse until meeting with Texas rangers in 2008. Under Utah law, the statute of limitations for sexual assault or abuse does not begin until the allegations are reported to law enforcement.

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said Utah law enforcement will investigate that claim. However, Shurtleff said, Texas authorities have told him there is no evidence Jeffs had sex with some of his teenage brides in Utah.

"They've told us there's nothing there similar to what they proved," Shurtleff said.

Jeffs' Texas trial included stunning details introduced by prosecutors of his exploits as prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints — from having sex in a temple baptismal font and creating a sex room in the temple to marrying at least 24 girls who were age 16 or younger.

Washington County Attorney Brock Belnap said Texas authorities told him the basics of their case against Jeffs, but he learned the details through news reports.

"I'm very interested in the material that has been uncovered in Texas," said Washington County Attorney Brock Belnap, "and I look forward to reviewing it as soon as they feel comfortable releasing it to us."

"Over the years there have been many reports to me and other law enforcement officers about the nature of Jeffs and his conduct," Belnap added. "The challenge has always been substantiating that with admissible evidence. This is the first time we have been able to prove what has long been stated by some people."

Belnap said the Texas attorney general and Texas rangers have not shared all of their evidence while Jeffs' case there was pending. Belnap is still contemplating whether to retry Jeffs on Utah criminal charges. A St. George jury in 2007 convicted Jeffs of rape as an accomplice for arranging the marriage of a then-14-year-old Elisa Wall to an older cousin, but the Utah Supreme Court last year overturned the conviction due to faulty jury instructions.

ncarlisle@sltrib.com

Twitter: @natecarlisle