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Compound built for Warren Jeffs becomes bed and breakfast

Published July 29, 2014 7:59 am

FLDS • It's already hosted a school reunion, where one person was arrested.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A spacious compound in Hildale was built to provide privacy for a polygamous sect leader.

Now you can call and make a reservation.

Warren Jeffs' refuge has become America's Most Wanted Suites — a reference to Jeffs' time on the FBI's list of 10 most wanted fugitives. New owner Willie Jessop is a former Jeffs protector and confidant who later sued his Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and won, purchasing the home with a $3.6 million credit bid during an April 2013 auction.

"The initial intent of [the compound] was to be something exclusive, and the bed and breakfast concept made it something inclusive," Jessop said.

The 14 rooms for rent each have their own bathroom and closet, with breakfast included — served on site or down the street at Merry Wives Cafe. Hildale and adjoining Colorado City, Ariz., are home to members of the polygamous church.

Prices were not posted on the Most Wanted Suites website as of Friday, but Jessop said he already has reservations and the compound's first event occurred earlier this month — a reunion for classes of the school run by the FLDS. The organizer reported the reunion went well, despite the local marshals arresting him.

Building business • The compound was constructed in 2010 and 2011 while Jeffs was awaiting trial in Texas, and residents have said it was built to house him, his wives and family after his acquittal or release from custody.

Instead, Jeffs was convicted in 2011 of child sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault and was sentenced to life in prison plus 20 years.

One building on the compound, with a circular bedroom intended for Jeffs, is not available for rent, Jessop said. It's being used by a family whose home recently burned down.

The opening of Most Wanted Suites is part of an effort to bring more business to Hildale and Colorado City. The local economy has suffered as Jeffs has evicted teenage boys and men from the FLDS and others have chosen to leave.

Also, much of the residential and commercial property in the two towns is owned by a trust, the United Effort Plan, that has been controlled by the state of Utah since 2005. The state oversight and uncertain future has deterred people from remodeling or improving their homes and buildings or starting businesses.

But in 2014, millions of dollars' worth of UEP property has been sold and plans are under way to lease commercial space.

Travel websites list no other lodging in Hildale or Colorado City. Redrock mountains rise on two sides of Hildale, which is about two hours away from both Lake Powell and the north rim of the Grand Canyon. The gates of Zion National Park are about 45 minutes away.

Interrupted reunion • The reunion held at the compound July 18-20 was for the FLDS academy high school classes of 1984 and 1985 and the eighth grade classes of 1980 and 1981.

One organizer, Harvey Dockstader, 48, said attendees were having a good time and singing karaoke when Hildale and Colorado City marshals Hyrum Roundy and Curtis Cooke arrived. Dockstader said he and Jessop went outside to meet the marshals, who said someone had complained about the noise.

Dockstader said he turned around to go back inside when Cooke grabbed his left arm and twisted it behind his back as Roundy grabbed his other arm.

"They just came up behind me and manhandled me," Dockstader said in an interview last week.

Dockstader said something ripped in his left shoulder and he struggled under the pain. The marshals put him in handcuffs, took him to their police station and cited him for disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, he said, before driving him back to the party.

By then, Dockstader said, deputies from sheriff's offices in Mohave County, Ariz., and Washington County, Utah, were there. The Washington County deputies took statements from witnesses, he said.

Dockstader said he is pursuing assault charges against Roundy and Cooke, and has spoken to the U.S. Department of Justice about what happened.

The marshals and town governments in Colorado City and Hildale have been accused in a civil rights lawsuit of serving as arms of the FLDS church and discriminating against outsiders. The attorneys general in Utah and Arizona are asking a federal judge to disband the marshals office.

Dockstader said the reunion brought together friends and families that have been apart for years or even decades due to splits among the FLDS.

"It was quite a buzzkill but the reunion was fantastic," Dockstader said.

ncarlisle@sltrib.com

Twitter: @natecarlisle