John Hollenhorst ReportingResident of Eldorado, Texas: “Well, I do not believe that the world will end today.”
That resident of Eldorado, Texas turned out to be right, the world did not end. But a crowd of reporters and law enforcement people gathered outside a polygamist compound in Texas just in case something bad did happen. The attention is focused on the nation's largest polygamist group, whose leader reportedly prophesied the world would end today. That group is based in Utah but is now developing a new compound in Texas.
It was a strange day. There probably wasn't a single reporter that expected the world to end, but many felt the story warranted coverage anyway. That's because the group has become unpredictable under Warren Jeffs, who critics claim is a dictator to his followers.
The polygamist temple is still incomplete and some Texans wish it would stay that way.
Resident of Eldorado, TX: “Maybe they’ll go away.”
The followers of Utah polygamist leader Warren Jeffs have been building the temple in a flurry of round-the-clock activity since January first. Today was the apparent target date for completion. Investigators say Jeffs predicted the world would end, and only the faithful would be saved. Rumors of a mass suicide or a violent siege drew a sizeable media contingent.
Jeffs’ followers escorted the sheriff in, but he never saw the secretive Jeffs.
Sheriff David Doran: “I can’t even confirm that he’s on the ranch.”
The followers told the sheriff nothing unusual was planned.
Sheriff David Doran: “Things were quiet out there. They were very calm. They were very accommodating. Everything was peaceful.”
Sam Brower, Private Investigator: “Just as the people in Jonestown were and just as the people in Waco were. But it’s the tyrant that’s running the show that’s dangerous.”
But communication professor Bob Avery says the media is pandering to the public by intensively covering a pseudo-event.
Prof. Bob Avery, Communications Dept., University of Utah: “Well, a pseudo-event in the sense that there’s not really anything here. Why the media want to make this a spectacle that utilizes news resources, I don’t think that’s serving the public interest.”
But it wasn't just the news media. Even Utah law enforcement was paying close attention.
Mark Shurtleff: “Utah Attorney General: “We were concerned enough that we sent my investigators to share their information with Texas state and local authorities. That was important enough to us. We were cautiously optimistic that nothing would happen.”
Jeffs is facing civil suits and criminal investigations, which could lead to a more tense situation than what we saw today. If deputies show up at the compound armed with seizure orders and arrest warrants, one Jeffs critic said, "The fuse is lit".