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Jeffs' conviction the climax to a decade-old unraveling



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SAN ANGELO, Texas — The downfall of Warren Jeffs did not begin with the 2008 raid on the FLDS Church compound in Eldorado, Texas.

The stage was set for that by a decade of persistent criticism and legal maneuvering by a small army of outside critics and former members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus of Latter Day Saints.

Private investigator Sam Brower of Cedar City got involved in 2002. His new book, "Prophet's Prey," tells much of the story.

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"Warren Jeffs was taking it to new levels of deviance," Brower says.

It now appears most of the worst accusations were true: hundreds of illegal marriages, dozens of underage brides, sexual assaults on pre-teens. It was an atmosphere of tyranny, indoctrination and female subjugation — a system of ruthless, reckless one-man rule.

The dam began to break in Utah as former members mustered the courage to talk about Warren Jeffs. "More and more victims were coming out, and we were able to find out more and more (about) exactly what he was doing," Brower says.

Some victims went to the media, wrote books, and filed lawsuits.

Utah officials finally took action against a polygamist cop and an FLDS Justice of the Peace in 2003.

But it wasn't until Elissa Wall stepped forward with her gripping story of an agonizing underage marriage that the Jeffs empire truly began crumbling. Her high-profile court battle in 2007 galvanized critics and primed Texas authorities for action.

When a hoax phone call triggered a massive raid by Texas Rangers on the Yearning for Zion ranch in 2008, they found a mother lode of evidence: a huge vault filled with the secrets of Warren Jeffs.

"It backed up and validated the people who had escaped the religion," Brower says.

Brower believes the problem was generally ignored in Utah because the FLDS religion had been around so long that people just got used to it, not realizing it was growing more deviant. He hopes Jeffs' Texas conviction will end the public apathy.

Email: hollenhorst@ksl.com

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John Hollenhorst

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