A 10-year-old girl whom authorities said had been kidnapped following a “revelation” from imprisoned polygamist leader Warren Jeffs has been found safe in North Dakota.
“She’s safe, she’s found,” the girl’s father, Dowayne Barlow, told FOX 13 News on Sunday.
Piute County Attorney Scott Burns confirmed that Heber Jeffs had been arrested and the girl would be reunited with her mother soon. Heber Jeffs, 54, is currently jailed in Minot, North Dakota, where he will go before a judge on Monday facing extradition to Utah on a warrant for child kidnapping.
Dowayne Barlow said he had been forbidden from seeing his daughter after he left the Fundamentalist LDS Church. His former wife had primary custody of the girl and had left her in the care of her brother, Heber Jeffs (who is also a nephew of FLDS leader Warren Jeffs). Court documents said that when she told Jeffs she was taking her daughter, Heber Jeffs told her “he was cutting her off, and that she would ‘not be allowed access to her child unless she was going to get back in the Church (FLDS) by writing to Helaman Jeffs or Warren Jeffs.’”
They then vanished. The Piute County Attorney filed first-degree felony kidnapping charges against Heber Jeffs.
Their disappearance follows a “revelation” in August by Warren Jeffs from his Texas prison cell, where he’s serving a life sentence for child sexual assault related to underage “marriages.” FOX 13 News reported in August that Jeffs was re-asserting control over the Utah-based FLDS Church, calling some people back into the faith and splitting families up. Over the years, Jeffs has cast out people from the church, separating men from their wives and children, and issued rigid edicts dictating faithful members’ daily lives.
“Through Warren Jeffs’ revelation he commanded or ordered that the FLDS female members should quit their current employment or activities and ‘gather’ (essentially ‘shelter in place’) and prepare to move to a location or locations (unknown to your Affiant) as directed by Warren Jeffs and/or Helaman Jeffs,” prosecutors wrote in the court documents.
In an interview with FOX 13 News, Barlow said the experience of his daughter’s kidnapping has been an emotional rollercoaster.
“We’re not the only family that’s been affected by having their children taken by the FLDS and taken to remote areas,” he said. “Hidden up and putting parents through a hell of an experience of agonizing.”
He praised the work of Piute County authorities for following leads all the way to North Dakota.
“We look forward to a very soon, happy reunion of that,” he said. “This experience through the exit of the FLDS, we’ve lost many friends and family but time is returning many of them to us. And we have just one great big word: just gratitude and humility. This is a big day.”
This article is published through the Utah News Collaborative, a partnership of news organizations in Utah that aim to inform readers across the state.