Fugitive Polygamist a Regular Visitor to Texas Ranch

Fugitive Polygamist a Regular Visitor to Texas Ranch

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PHOENIX (AP) -- A fugitive polygamist leader has been a regular visitor to his sect's ranch in Texas since his indictment earlier this year on sexual misconduct charges, Arizona's attorney general says.

"He appears to come and go with impunity there," said Attorney General Terry Goddard. He would not elaborate.

Authorities have been seeking Warren Jeffs since he was indicted by a Mohave County grand jury in June on charges of sexual misconduct for marrying underage women to much older men.

His brother, Seth Steed Jeffs, was arrested near Pueblo, Colo., last week and was detained on local prostitution-related charges and a federal count of concealing a person from arrest, namely Warren Jeffs.

Goddard said he believes Warren Jeffs could be captured in short order in Texas, where Jeffs' sect, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is establishing a community about 160 miles northwest of San Antonio. The sect has no connection with the mainstream Mormon church, which banned polygamy in the late 1800s.

"I don't want to be critical but, frankly, I don't think they've been as aggressive as I would like. This needs to be a multistate effort," Goddard said.

"Maybe it's the Waco legacy, that they are particularly sensitive to anything that would have the potential for violence," he said. Goddard was referring to the 1993 federal raid on the Branch Davidian compound that resulted in a 51-day siege and a fire that killed 77 members of the Branch Davidian sect.

Goddard said he has "good information" that Jeffs regularly travels to the ranch, where FLDS members are building a large temple.

But David Doran, the sheriff in Schleicher County, Texas, disputes that, saying nothing indicates that Jeffs has been to the ranch since he was indicted in Arizona. Doran said the last known visit by Jeffs was the temple groundbreaking on New Year's Day.

"We're doing everything we can on this case and are giving more attention to this than any out-of-state warrant we've ever had. We've worked very hard on establishing a dialogue with the people out there, encouraging them to turn him in," Doran said. "The gentleman you quote doesn't have a clue about Texas."

Doran said activities at the ranch are heavily monitored from adjoining properties and occasional roadblocks set up in hopes of catching Jeffs.

"We've been on top of this from Day 1," Doran said. "My office here is only 3 1/2 miles from the ranch and we see the traffic that goes in there and we see the change in the people when someone important is around."

Doran said 80 to 150 FLDS devotees live at the ranch.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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