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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Hiding in Plain Sight: Polygamy

Aired May 10, 2006 - 23:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, again from Salt Lake City, on the trail of Fugitive Warren Jeffs. He calls himself a prophet. His critics say he is evil.
ANNOUNCER: Is he a prophet and a coldhearted criminal? Tonight, the real story of Polygamist Warren Jeffs. Who is he? And the bigger question, where is he?

Meet the Mormon who's hunting down the so-called prophet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAM BROWER, PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR: I am an enemy to Warren Jeffs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: For this investigator, going after Jeffs is not just a job, it's personal.

And tonight, one woman who escaped the clutches of the polygamist sect tells all.

Across the country and around the world, this is a special edition of ANDERSON COOPER 360, "Hiding in Plain Sight: Polygamy." Live from Salt Lake City, here's Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: And thanks for joining us. Our report tonight is not about the church that is headquartered behind me, the Church of Latter Day Saints, or LDS. It's not about the Mormon church. It's about a manhunt for the leader of an offshoot of it. One that split from the mother church more than 70 years ago. A sect that practices polygamy, led by a man who is now on the run. One of America's most wanted. Accused of forcing young girls into marriage and much more. Tonight, an inside look, starting with the fugitive.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): To his thousands of followers, Warren Jeffs is the chosen one, a prophet who speaks for God on earth; to others who have studied his sect, he is pure evil.

JOHN KRAKAUER, AUTHOR, "UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN": He has the kind of pathology that would put him on a par with Joseph Stalin or Saddam Hussein. He's raped and sodomized many, many children, girls, women, and he's created this culture that is damaging in its own right. COOPER: Jeffs rules over the fundamentalist church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Known as the FLDS, the group shuns the outside world, living a kind of twilight zone existence in sealed-off communities in Utah, Texas, Arizona and British Columbia, building churches and waiting for judgment day.

GARY ENGLES, INVESTIGATOR: These chosen people believe that they'll be lifted up while God sweeps the earth clean of the wicked people, and then they'll be sent back down to rebuild the earth.

COOPER: Those who left the FLDS describe chilling accounts of Warren Jeffs. He's all powerful, believed to have dozens of wives himself and picks what women church elders should take.

In a rare audio recording made by a disgruntled member and obtained by a local radio station, Jeffs preached about first-time brides and obedience. Listen.

WARREN JEFFS, POLYGAMIST LEADER: Many young men, when they receive their first wife, they're just so untrained. And the woman, if she's not careful, will be overbearing and always ask permission for what she wants. And ladies, build up your husband by being submissive. That's how you will give your children the success. You will want your children to be obedient and submissive to righteous living.

COOPER: Jeffs also spews hate, warning his believers of a wicked world.

JEFFS: You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, or rude and filthy, uncomely, disagreeable, and low in their habits, wild and seemingly deprived of nearly all of the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind.

COOPER: Brent Jeffs is the nephew of Warren Jeffs. Here's how he describes his uncle.

BRENT JEFFS, NEPHEW OF WARREN JEFFS: He puts on a front like he's a very nice man, a very giving man, very happy. But underneath all that, he's very dark and very evil. And he will do anything to hide himself and get away from all these charges. And so all I can say to everyone out there is just keep your eye out for him.

COOPER: Tonight, Jeffs is a fugitive on the run, but still very dangerous. That is what has so many concerned. Fearing his maniacal authority, coupled with divine devotion, will lead to a violent showdown.

KRAKAUER: The problem is how to arrest him. And without provoking some calamity that would dwarf the calamity of Waco or even Jonestown. That's the challenge.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (on camera): Well, traditionally Warren Jeffs' followers have been holed up in Colorado City, here in Utah, in the south, and also right across in Arizona. But lately and over the last several years, he's been moving his followers into a town in Texas. And it's about 200 miles by air from Waco, to a small town called El Dorado. And in El Dorado, if you ask some of the locals, they say a Waco type scenario is a very real concern.

CNN's Rick Sanchez is there -- Rick.

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. Folks here are concerned. It's amazing to see this -- like a small town, just suddenly rising up out of the west Texas brush.

You know, there's no question that Jeffs has been here in the past. The question now is, is he here now?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ (voice-over): This is south central Texas, isolated, quiet, but there's a building boom of sorts here. Around this temple, erected by Warren Jeffs' polygamist followers.

And look at this. A rare glimpse into this new world of Mormon fundamentalists, one of the only photos of women and children working the fields of this 1,700-acre compound, under construction by Jeffs' chosen followers.

It's called YFZ, or Yearning For Zion. Because this is where the man they call the prophet has told them they need to be when the world, as we know it, comes to an end.

For other residents here, though it sounds alarmingly like what happened in another Texas town.

(On camera): Are you worried that this could be the next Waco?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: yes.

SANCHEZ: Yes?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They have the manpower, they have the financial resources, and they're in an isolated area.

SANCHEZ: We're going to go ahead and try and drive into the compound, but it's surrounded by other ranches, so this is really the only road in. We're told that it is protected by guards in all- terrain vehicles. And some of the locals that we've talked to say they're armed.

(Voice-over): Nobody really knows whether Warren Jeffs, who is now one of the FBI's top 10 fugitives, is in the compound. Sheriff David Doran is one of just a handful of insiders who have ever been inside.

(On camera): How do you know Warren Jeffs isn't there right now? DAVID DORNAN, SHERIFF: I can't say. I mean, I don't know. I don't know if he is or not.

SANCHEZ: So why not get a bunch of your guys in there and raid it right now and find out if he's there?

DORNAN: Well, you know, one would speculate that's what needs to be done. There's all -- you know, critics would say, why aren't we doing that? We have to get good, credible information that he's on the property. We have to have a sighting by law enforcement.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): But they haven't. Nor have they received reports of any criminal activity. And although Jeffs is accused of sex with a minor and suspected of arranging marriages between young girls and older men, there's been no evidence of that here. It's a possibility that repulses locals.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's sick. They shouldn't be able to do that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's nasty. It's just wrong. It shouldn't be like that.

SANCHEZ (on camera): We've essentially come as far as we can go because there's a locked gate here that prevents us from going any further. But if you look all the way down the road, you see a massive stone temple jutting over the horizon. That seems to be in the middle of nowhere.

(Voice-over): It now seems Jeffs' followers originally intended to conceal what they were doing when they placed a 10-foot sign that read "Whitetail Hunting Lodge."

School Teacher Ernesto Barrero (ph) was among the fist to realize something was amiss.

ERNESTEO BARRERO (ph), SCHOOL TEACHER: I told my wife, I noticed right away they misspelled whitetail.

SANCHEZ (on camera): Whitetail was misspelled?

BARRERO: Yes.

SANCHEZ: They lied.

BARRERO: Oh, yes. They lied. They said that it was going to be a hunting resort.

SANCHEZ (voice-over): A work permit that explains what the property really is. YFZ, a religious church organization. We called the number on the permit to ask for Ernest Jessop (ph).

(On camera): Hi. Is this Mr. Jessop?

But we're told we had the wrong number. (Voice-over): We also tried to catch up with one of Jeffs' followers driving a truck, loaded with fill. But he spotted us, ran, and then drove away.

From the air, Pilot J.D. Doyle showed us the massive temple, the three-story housing units where Jeffs' chosen followers now live, the water tower, the school and community, the dairy and cheese factory, even a massive concrete mill.

J.D. DOYLE, PILOT: Warren tells them that the end of the world is near, and it will be so many days after the last corner is set on the temple. And then after that, God is going to come, destroy the earth. They're going to be the only people left because they believe that they are the only true tribe of Israel left.

SANCHEZ: Surrounded by nothing but cactus and brush, followers are completely isolated. Locals say only men are allowed to leave the compound. They believe only those with at least three wives will reach heaven, and women will only reach heaven if they have their husband's blessing.

(On camera): What's going to happen if the feds come in here and try and arrest him?

DOYLE: Waco.

SANCHEZ: It will be another Waco?

DOYLE: Without a question.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Rick, do you see FBI, a lot of local law enforcement around the town?

SANCHEZ: There's no question they're here. As a matter of fact, they have a field office in San Angelo, which is only about 43 miles from where we are right now.

And we did talk to them today, Anderson. We asked them, look, is there any time that you guys are going to be going into this compound to see if you can possibly find him? And they said no, not unless we know for sure that he's there, because we're not going to be able to convince a judge to give us a court order in the first place.

And you know as well, when you talk to them, and you certainly get a sense, Anderson, in the back of their minds they're thinking, we certainly don't want to create another Waco like situation -- Anderson.

COOPER: And do you see residents of the compound in the town with townspeople?

SANCHEZ: Only the men. And when they come into town, they come with wads of $100 bills, cash and lots of it. And that is interestingly enough why some of the townspeople here saying, you know what? Right now they haven't broken any laws, and they're good citizens. Back to you, Anderson.

COOPER: Interesting. Rick Sanchez, thanks very much.

More now on the sect. The planning for possible apocalypse and the fears that all this could lead to some sort of violent conclusion.

We're joined in Phoenix now by Michael Watkiss. He's an investigative reporter. He's done more work on Warren Jeffs and this sect over the years than anyone else.

Good to see you. Thanks for being with us.

MICHAEL WATKISS, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Nice to join you, Anderson.

COOPER: As we just heard, some people in El Dorado believe a confrontation with Jeffs could be deadly. You spoke with a couple of people in Colorado City who echoed those same concerns. I just want to play some of that.

WATKISS: Yes, good.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He has absolute control over these people. He really does.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a new leader. And if he was to ask for violence, there's undoubtedly that's what he would get.

WATKISS (voice-over): People are that devoted to this guy?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely. There's people that would kill for him in an instant.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Is a violent end to this inevitable?

WATKISS (on camera): I certainly hope not, Anderson. I have been doing a lot of work on this, today of course, called a lot of my sources up in Colorado City. And what you have been reporting there is great fear among that community, the people still left in Colorado City.

And you've got to understand, most of these people are truly decent, worth well, simple people who have been cut off from the outside world, and now they see this terrible entity that they have been raised to fear, the federal government, coming after the man that they think is God on earth. They're panicked up there.

And once again, I think it shows just the blatant cruelty of this guy, Warren Jeffs. He's willing to allow his followers to go through all of this so he can obtain some sort of martyr status. People are terrified up there. He could march into a courtroom and answer these charges. The attorney general from Utah has been bold enough to say that he's a coward. I think that's a pretty accurate description. But people up there are panicked right now.

Yesterday, our Attorney General Terry Goddard was up there, trying to hand some subpoenas for a grand jury, went into the city offices and the town marshal's offices. Nobody was there. People are bailing out of Colorado City, the ones that are faithful, chosen by Warren, are going down to Texas. The rest of the people are panicking and scattering.

COOPER: And leaving -- some of those people who followed him for years, just leaving them behind in Colorado City.

One woman I know that you spoke with became an outcast in Colorado City after challenging Jeffs, and she had to leave her daughter behind. You captured what happened when she went to local authorities, asking them for help. I want to show that, and then we'll talk about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WATKISS (voice-over): Lenora (ph) objected to the marriage of her underage daughter; and at first, took her complaints to the headquarters of Colorado City's polygamist cops.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not going to have the camera on in here.

LENORA HOLM (ph), CHALLENGED JEFFS: What I got from them is that they're trying to communicate to me that I don't have the right to go in there and make a complaint about the fact that my daughter could be being raped right now by a 39-year-old man.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: It's unbelievable. I mean, who can a woman like that turn to if those in authority, if the local police are faithful to Jeffs?

WATKISS (on camera): Well, at that time when that story first broke, she could turn to us, and thank God we were able to tell her story. This, for the last decade, again, was -- we mentioned the other night, Anderson, this is just breaking on the American front.

But this has been a human rights war on the scale of Mandela and Dr. King. Handful of brave women like the woman you just saw there, Lenora Holm (ph), to have been standing up periodically during the last decade and saying, hell no. I don't want my daughter to marry one of these guys. There's a bunch of women -- handful of women who have gotten out, and they look back and they say, we don't want our little sisters, our nieces, our nephews subjected to that. And they have really created sort of an underground railroad to help people get out. This is long before any state officials took any action. And let me tell you, they were asleep at the wheel for a long time. Some of them are now stepping up. But this has been just a crusade, a human rights war here in Arizona to make somebody pay attention.

COOPER: And do you think people are paying attention now? I mean, do you think change will actually happen?

WATKISS: Well, it will never be the same because I think if there's one thing that we have accomplished now, telling these stories for the last 10 years, the secrets are out. You're telling it. Everybody else is now telling it.

These people have had the ally of secrecy for decades. People have left them alone, thought oh, they're just good, weird, hard- working people. Bottom line is, they're fleecing the welfare system to support these huge families. They're raping these underage girls, they're driving the young boys out. There is just colossal fraud and theft at the school district. There's so many levels to this. But thank God, somebody is now paying attention. The FBI is looking for this guy.

COOPER: And, I mean, this is coercion at its core. This is coercion. People being coerced into marriages, into doing things because they're afraid of not getting into heaven because these are their beliefs.

Michael Watkiss, as I said, you've been reporting on this for years. Appreciate all that you've done. And thanks for talking with us tonight.

WATKISS: Thank you.

COOPER: We'll talk to you again in the days to come.

While polygamy is outlawed in the United States, many other countries permit a husband to have more than one wife.

Here's the raw data. An estimated 850 societies around the world practice polygamy. It's legal in many parts of the Middle East and in several African nations, where in some tribes, up to half of all marriages are polygamist.

Here in the U.S., one man has made it his mission to nab Polygamist Leader Warren Jeffs. After the break, you're going to meet the private investigator who has been digging up some very ugly details about Jeffs' life. And the dirty trail goes a long way back.

Plus, one woman who escaped from the sect tells all about life under his control. I'll speak with her and how she got her daughters out.

And then there's the other side of polygamy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: How is it decided which wife the husband sleeps with on a given night?

JOYCE, POLYGAMIST: We draw straws. And the one with the short straw has to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: These are not followers of Warren Jeffs, but these women actually say they seem to enjoy this lifestyle. We'll talk to this group when this special edition of 360 "Hiding in Plain Sight: Polygamy," continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFFS: You see some classes of the human family that are black, uncouth, or rude and filthy, uncomely, disagreeable and low in their habits, wild and seemingly deprived of nearly all the blessings of the intelligence that is generally bestowed upon mankind.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That's one of the sermons of Warren Jeffs, a very strange monotone voice he gives those sermons in.

Our next stop on the trail of this man, this fugitive, tonight, takes us to the communities of Colorado City and Hilldale, on the respective sides of the Arizona-Utah border.

Now, remember, Jeffs' control techniques utilize brainwashing, intimidation and isolation. So, were it not for the civil cases against him, the scandals might still be guarded secrets, known only to Jeffs' alleged victims.

Now, let's look at a man dedicated to bringing Jeffs to justice.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): Though he says he never intended it, this man's become a relentless avenger, Sam Brower says digging into Warren Jeffs' secret world isn't just business for him, it's personal.

SAM BROWER, PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR: I am an enemy to Warren Jeffs. I am an enemy to child abusers.

COOPER: Brower is a private investigator and a Mormon. With each new case he takes, he says he's more and more appalled by how he says Jeffs, as a prophet and a leader, has perverted the faith.

BROWER: This is where Warren used to live.

COOPER: It began three years ago when Brower volunteered to help a husband who was being evicted by Jeffs and his church.

Remember, in Colorado City, the church owns all the property. Throwing out boys and men who are disloyal to Jeffs was not unusual. BROWER: I promise you they're watching us right now.

COOPER: In fact, Brower says it was not unusual for the wives to choose to stay behind and with the prophet. What Brower revealed, helped the husband to keep his home, but it also made Brower enemies.

BROWER: Normally I am armed.

COOPER: Brower also started investigations on behalf of the so- called "Lost Boys," who had been thrown out of the sect and in some cases, claimed Jeffs sodomized them.

He also took on the case of a young woman who says she was underage when Jeffs forced her to marry an older man. These cases are still in the courts.

BROWER: These are all files, correspondence and so forth.

COOPER: Brower's investigations have unearthed details in Jeffs' life, going back to his days as a school principal in Sandy, Utah. His office, a mother lode of information about Jeffs and his followers. Files, photos, audiotapes. Brower says he's listened to just about every sermon and speech Jeffs recorded, all because he wants to know him well enough to shut him down.

BROWER: It's really hard to get a grip and wrap your mind around people that are so blindly loyal and such religious zealots.

COOPER: Brower has also been trying to follow the money. He believes Jeffs still receives millions of dollars from businesses run by his followers, so he methodically checks business records.

BROWER: And this is the absolute -- absolutely, the most complicated case I've ever worked on. When you have somebody -- a family that lives in one house, one day, and the next day, they're living in another house, and they've taken on another name and they have a different head of the household, it's really hard to track.

JEFFS: I want to remind you of the prophet (inaudible). He's commanded to kill another man. He is never blood thirsty.

COOPER: Sam Brower says the more he knows about Jeffs and the power he wields over his followers, the more concerned he gets.

It means when Brower goes looking for Warren Jeffs, he knows he's in enemy territory.

BROWER: Get away from the car.

COOPER: Although Brower has never met Warren Jeffs, he says Jeffs and his followers are religious fanatics, that they've created a Taliban right here in the desert here.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(On camera): Well, the polygamist lifestyle may not seem fair to women, but some women say they actually like it. That story is coming up.

But first, Erica Hill, from "HEADLINE NEWS," has some of the other stories we're following tonight -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the former band manager of "Great White" has been sentenced in the Rhode Island night club fire that killed 100 people. Daniel Biechele will now spend four years in prison for igniting the onstage fireworks that caused the fire three years ago. Biechele had pleaded guilty to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter. Today he apologized to the families of the victims.

Near Westminster, Texas, north of Dallas a mile long path of destruction. Last night tornadoes ripped through more than two dozen buildings, mostly homes, killing at least three people. And today rescue crews went door to door, looking for more victims. They now belief everyone has been counted for.

In Florida, Governor Jeb Bush has written the sheriff of Bay County, urging him to fire the former supervisor of a juvenile boot camp where a 14-year-old died. The governor's letter was written on Friday when a second autopsy showed the victim had been suffocated by the camp's guards. The camp's supervisor was transferred after the incident.

And in New York City, one man's cross country trek to lose weight is now over. Steve Vaught called himself the "fat man walking." He weighed 410 pounds when he began his 3,000 mile journey from California more than a year ago. And a lot thinner now after shedding 100 pounds -- Anderson.

COOPER: Good for him. Erica Hill, thanks very much from Atlanta.

Now we're going to step outside Warren Jeffs' world to hear from others, specifically wives and children, who in a rare conversation, offer frank, candid disclosures about a lifestyle they defend, a lifestyle of polygamy they lead.

Plus, a much different account.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CAROLYN JESSOP, LEFT FLDS SECT: You're not allowed any form of birth control. And to say, you know, I am -- I really can't handle it. I'm having too many children, I'm having them too fast is a mortal sin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: A very brave woman who managed to break free of Warren Jeffs' church. She'll reveal more on why she escaped, when this special edition of 360, "Hiding in Plain Sight: Polygamy," continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Well, now to voices rarely heard in public. We wanted to know what life is really like for those who continue to practice polygamy. It wasn't easy to find families willing to go on camera, but our Gary Tuchman did.

Now, it is important to know the people you're about to hear from are not followers of Warren Jeffs, but they are fundamentalist Mormons and they do practice polygamy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A daughter and a mother.

CHRISTINE, DAUGHTER, POLYGAMIST: I've never had people make fun of me, but I don't think they know.

TUCHMAN: What they don't know is that Daughter Christine, lives in 32-bedroom house with many siblings and many mothers. For security reasons Mother Linda, doesn't want to give exact numbers.

(On camera): Do you know how many wives there are?

LINDA, POLYGAMIST: Yes, I do.

TUCHMAN: Is it between 10 and 15?

LINDA: Yes. That would be safe to say.

TUCHMAN: And the kids, the range, how many kids?

LINDA: More than 30. All my kids are sweethearts.

TUCHMAN: Most polygamists' homes are not this big, but size is a nice luxury to have in these kinds of families.

The children are all fathered by one man -- one husband, who, because polygamy is against the law, doesn't feel safe appearing on camera. Neither do the rest of his wives who in most cases have paying jobs. They won't tell us what their husband does to pay for such a big house.

Here in the neighboring communities of Colorado City and Centennial Park, Arizona, most homes are polygamists. People don't want their last names used because they're afraid. But Mark doesn't mind talking. He's only married to one woman, but that's just temporary.

Would you like to have 10 or more wives like your father did?

MARK, POLYGAMIST: Sure. Why not? The more, the merrier.

TUCHMAN: It's not only men who talk like that here.

(Voice-over): We gathered a group of polygamists from different families who say, as fundamentalist Mormons, God has obligated them to live in pluralistic marriages.

JOYCE, POLYGAMIST: And we do believe that he has commended it.

TUCHMAN: Joyce doesn't want to divulge how many wives she shares her husband with and how many children they have, but she says she's very happy.

(On camera): Aren't there times where you say I just wish he was with me and had me alone?

JOYCE: No. Honestly, no.

TUCHMAN: I mean, you're sharing your husband, right?

JOYCE: Yes. Yes.

TUCHMAN: And that's OK with you?

JOYCE: You know, they're my best friends.

TUCHMAN: Your -- other wives?

JOYCE: Absolutely. They really are. In fact, I love my husband dearly, but the other ladies in the house probably have a closer -- I might have a closer relationship with them.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): In an effort to avoid trouble, most of the polygamist families in this community get an official marriage certificate only for the first marriage in the household.

Priscilla lives with several "sister wives," as they're called, and many children.

(On camera): I mean, when you see women out there who say, you guys are just being taken advantage of. You know, by men who want to be with lots of women.

PRISCILLA, POLYGAMIST: We say you're being taken advantage of. That's what we would say to them.

TUCHMAN: Why?

PRISCILLA: Because so many of them don't have a committed relationship.

TUCHMAN: They know their childhoods and their families sound very unusual to most people.

PRISCILLA: We had more than four mothers.

TUCHMAN: And how many brothers and sisters?

PRISCILLA: Total, at the end of the family, we had more than 30.

JOYCE: I had three. And we had more than 20 children in our family. TUCHMAN: How many of you have had relatives who have gone to jail for polygamy?

So six of you?

Grandparents? Parents?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Grandparents, and father.

TUCHMAN: In jail for polygamy?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

TUCHMAN: And how did that affect your families?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was devastating. My grandfather...

TUCHMAN (voice-over): The people in our group say they are not followers of Polygamy Leader Warren Jeffs, who is wanted by the FBI. But they are not ready to vilify him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have no idea. We don't know what he's done.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Would any of you let your 14-year-old or 15-year-old daughters get married?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely not.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

TUCHMAN: 16 or 17?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely not.

TUCHMAN: Not until they're 18?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Or beyond.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Or older.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Or older.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): They say they've all watched the new HBO show about polygamy, called "Big Love."

Do you like it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's entertaining.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's television.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Is it realistic?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): There's a lot of sex in that show, isn't there?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Too much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Which is why a lot of our people stopped watching after the first couple of episodes.

TUCHMAN (on camera): So that's unrealistic?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Well, I don't know.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Which brings up this question.

How is it decided which wife the husband sleeps with on a given night?

JOYCE: We draw straws. And the one with the short straw has to.

(LAUGHTER)

JOYCE: No offense to the man. We love our husbands very much. We communicate.

TUCHMAN: These women say their husbands do have significant stamina.

(On camera): I mean, what an ego boost for the man, to be loved by so many women.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What an ego boost for the women to be loved by such a good man.

JOYCE: It's a win-win proposition.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): These people enjoy joking around, but they get very serious when they declare the mainstream Mormon church made a mistake when polygamy was banned more than a century ago.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We stand in support of the principle of plural marriage as a sacred, religious tenant.

TUCHMAN: Polygamy will not be disappearing anytime soon from this nook in Arizona.

(On camera): Are any of you ladies at the point where you would not want your husband to take another wife?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, absolutely not.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The more, the better. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Gary, did they say why they and their other followers broke away from Warren Jeffs?

TUCHMAN: Yes. Warren Jeffs and his father, they thought, became dictators. They weren't comfortable with them being dictators. Therefore in 1986, 20 years ago, they moved two miles down the road, about 1,000 people live there, and they believe in polygamy just like the people behind me here in Colorado City, but they don't believe in the Jeffs.

One thing I wanted to point out to you, Anderson, very interesting in that house with Linda, where we know that about 45 people live, we asked her what kind of food do you have to put in the kitchen each week? And she told us that each week they buy about 20 gallons of milk, about six dozen eggs. And I asked what about the cereal, how many boxes of cereal? And they said no cereal, hot meals for everybody. They work pretty hard in that house.

COOPER: Amazing. I can't believe how big that house was. Gary, thanks. Fascinating.

There's much more to see in Colorado City, Arizona, a town where polygamy has taken root and is thriving.

Coming up, Gary's going to take us on a tour of a community that prefers its privacy -- and a risky tour it was.

Plus, she was just 18 when Warren Jeffs' father forced her to marry a 50-year-old man. She became his fifth wife and bore him eight children, then she did the unthinkable, she escaped. Her story coming up next on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) \ (BEGIN GRAPHIC)

Colorado City, Arizona

About a third of the 3,700 plus residents are on food stamps.

The welfare rate is one of the highest in the West.

Source: "The New York Times"

(END GRAPHIC)

COOPER: Now we take you back now to Colorado City, Arizona. That is where a large part of Warren Jeffs' followers make their home, but the town has been falling apart. It is literally under siege by authorities who are trying to get back taxes and, of course, Jeffs is nowhere to be found.

We have more from CNN's Gary Tuchman, who gives us a rare tour of the area. And along the way, he got a very cool reception when he showed up with a camera. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TUCHMAN: We're 110 miles north of the Grand Canyon on the state line of Arizona and Utah. Behind me, Colorado City, Arizona. This is Hilldale, Utah. They're basically twin cities, two different states, but the people who live in these two towns, ignore the state line. They live one particular type of life.

It is not unusual for homes to have more than 10 wives and more than 30 children. You can see some of the wives and children here, going into this home. The wives wear long dresses. They wear their hair tied up in a bun, very traditional, old-fashioned clothing.

We haven't seen one woman here in this town here in Arizona who's been wearing clothing you'd consider more typical.

We're driving now because the fact is, it's very hard for us to shoot in front of people's homes without making them angry, without making them suspicious. Lots of these people have had their parents and grandparents end up in prison because of polygamy. They do not trust the police. They do not trust the news media. They are not particularly happy to see us.

This is the center of commerce here in Colorado City. This is the food town. This is where the families come to get their groceries. They won't allow us inside with the camera, but we can tell you it is very busy, as you might expect. There are many households. And can you see there are some angry people here who don't want the camera to be...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No cameras allowed here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Say again?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sorry, this is private property, no cameras allowed.

TUCHMAN: So now we're off the property where legally we're allowed to shoot.

We can tell you that according to local authorities, the district attorney's office, which pays visits here with their investigators, 99 percent of the families here are polygamist families. Most of those families...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have to ask to you to not video by our store. Please don't point that at me.

TUCHMAN: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't want you on this store parking lot or videoing customers in and out. It makes them nervous so they don't want to go in our store.

TUCHMAN: OK, this will just take one minute. We're on public -- we're on a public sidewalk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, this is private property.

TUCHMAN: We were saying that authorities estimate 99 percent of the families here are polygamist families. Most of them are supporters of Warren Jeffs. But it's very important to point out, there's a town just two miles to the south of here, called Centennial Park.

Centennial Park was formed about 20 years ago by people who did not want to be loyal to Warren Jeffs and his father. They are not supporters of Warren Jeffs, but they also practice polygamy.

That, the people in Centennial Park and the people here, agree upon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Gary Tuchman.

Leaving the polygamist society run by Warren Jeffs is anything but easy. It can be dangerous, in fact. After the break, we'll hear from one brave woman who tried and succeeded. Her story and how she tried to get her kids out, when this special edition of 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Our next guest, Carolyn Jessop, was a member of Warren Jeffs' polygamist sect, but managed to escape. We're going talk to her in a moment. But first, here is her story.

COOPER (voice-over): Carolyn Jessop grew up in a polygamous family in the FLDS sect in Colorado City, Arizona. She dreamed of going to college and becoming a pediatrician. Her father went to ask the prophet for permission, and was told Carolyn Jessop had to get married first. That was nearly 20 years ago. The prophet then was Rulon Jeffs, Warren Jeffs' father.

CAROLYN JESSOP, LEFT FLDS SECT: I didn't really know what to do with it. It's just like you can see something really bad's coming down, you can see your life going in a direction that's the worst place you'd ever want it to go, but yet there's nothing you can do to stop it.

COOPER: The man chosen to be Carolyn's husband, a 50-year old man who already had three wives and would eventually take several more.

JESSOP: I get in this car with this strange man, 32 years older than me, and we're going to get married that day and drive to his house to meet his family. It was like watching a horror movie, except for I was in the front seat of it.

COOPER: Carolyn moved in to her husband's home.

JESSOP: It was bad from the beginning. I mean, there was few if any happy moments. You're not allowed any form of birth control. And to say, you know, I really can't handle it, I'm having too many children, I'm having them too fast, is a mortal sin. And so, of course, if your husband sees you as worthy and he wants to father a baby with you, then it is considered a sin unto death to refuse him.

COOPER: She had eight children in 15 years, including a son who was severely disabled. Eventually there were five wives in her home and 54 children. Life became more extreme when Warren Jeffs took control of the sect after his father's death in 2002.

JESSOP: A lot of things changed when he took over. The children were pulled out of public schools and everybody was put into private schools. And then they burned all the books.

COOPER: Shortly afterwards, at the age of 35, Carolyn started thinking about the unthinkable -- escape.

JESSOP: Living in these polygamous homes -- or the one that I lived in, is like living in a police state. Everyone reports everything on everybody else.

COOPER: One night she had a unexpected opportunity. Her husband was out of town and all eight children were home. She called a brother in Salt Lake City.

JESSOP: He said, you know, Carolyn, I will do anything and everything I can to help you, but if I leave right now the soonest I can be there is at 5:00 in the morning. I said, will you do it? And he said, I'll be there, but I don't want to come into the community. So he wanted me to drive three miles outside of the community and meet him at a store, it was called Canaan Corner.

The next issue was not letting the children know. There is no possible way they would have come with me knowing what I was doing. They were terrified of the outside world. So I had to come up with a story.

So I got them up about 4:00 o'clock that morning. And I told them Harrison was extremely sick and that I had to take him to the doctor, which was common, that was life.

And -- but I told them well, Arthur is here and so I want to get family pictures. And so everybody is coming with me this time.

One of Merrill's other's wives walks in on my oldest daughter getting dressed and starts demanding answers. And so about 4:30 that morning I hear over the intercom, Merrill wants to talk to me on the phone. I knew I was -- I knew they were on to me.

COOPER: Carolyn began piling her children into the van.

JESSOP: The last person I went and got was Harrison. I took him off his oxygen, put him in his car seat, and I thought everybody was there. I got in the front seat and I was just about to put the key in the ignition.

COOPER: But her oldest daughter was missing.

JESSOP: You know, honestly, it was one of the most difficult decisions I've ever had in my life. I mean, because I knew I was out of time. And do I leave her? Do I leave one and save seven? Or do I go back in and get her and none of us get out?

COOPER: She made a split-second decision and ran inside her house.

JESSOP: But she didn't want to come. And she was crying and you know, she said, Mother there is something you're doing that's wrong. Why doesn't Father know what you're doing?

COOPER: Carolyn grabbed her daughter and pulled her into the van.

JESSOP: After I got out of the community, then the realization that my van was completely out of gas. So, it was like just making it on a prayer that I could get three miles out of town.

And about a mile before I got to Canaan Corner, the van was sputtering. It was definitely out. But I made it there.

COOPER: She met her brother and reached safety. Her life began all over again.

JESSOP: I have something now that I've never had in my life before. I have hope.

COOPER: Carolyn had to fight a bitter legal battle for custody of her children. But in the end, she prevailed. They all live together near Salt Lake City.

JESSOP: I think that one of the things that the outside world doesn't understand about the world that I come from, is that they see the polygamous lifestyle as an issue about religious freedom, religious rights. But what I've experienced is its basically about human rights issues. You're not supposed to think. You're supposed to be willing to be perfectly obedient. To me, I see it as a life of slavery.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (on camera): Carolyn Jessop is a remarkable woman with a remarkable story. And there's a lot more to talk about. We'll talk with her live, coming up, in this special edition of 360, "Hiding in Plain Sight: Polygamy."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Before the break, we told you the remarkable story of Carolyn Jessop, the former wife of a polygamist, who lived under the power of Warren Jeffs, but managed to escape.

Carolyn Jessop joins me now. Thanks for being with us.

JESSOP: Thank you.

COOPER: We were talking during the break about the kids who really are not getting an education under Warren Jeffs.

JESSOP: Yes. A few years before I left, when Warren basically shut down all the public schools, and he pulled all of the fundamentalist children out of the school system, into a private school system. And then he burned all the books.

COOPER: Why burn all the books?

JESSOP: Because he didn't want the children exposed to anything from the outside world. And after I left, my children were so severely behind, they were basically illiterate. They're not getting an education right now. And this has been going on for seven, eight years. So we've got children now that have progressed through the whole private school system, and they are completely illiterate.

COOPER: And for someone like yourself, who left, I mean, are there resources when you leave? I mean, how do you readjust to life?

JESSOP: When I left, there was absolutely no resources, whatsoever, for the types of needs a polygamist woman, you know, requires to get stabilized. In fact, I was discriminated against.

COOPER: How so?

JESSOP: Well, like Crime Victims Assistance for the state of Utah denied the case. They refused to help. And they said that I was a victim, my children were victims, and we met the victim qualifications, but they do not help women flee polygamist relationships.

COOPER: That seems bizarre.

JESSOP: Their excuse for it is that women leaving polygamist relationships always go back, so they refuse help. The reason women go back is because there's not enough help.

COOPER: Do you feel like authorities here, I mean, there's action now. There's a lot of attention on this. The FBI, the state attorney general, but, I mean, they've known about this for a long time.

JESSOP: Yes. The authorities have known about it for ever since the time of the 1953 raid. It's just that the raid went so bad for the authorities, it cost people their positions in government. And it's just been known ever since that if you want to touch polygamy, it will cost you your political career.

COOPER: So some politicians, you're saying, don't want to touch it just because it's politically, it's suicide for them?

JESSOP: Exactly.

COOPER: Because there's still support for polygamists? JESSOP: Well, they just haven't had good success in stopping polygamy with prosecution. People will go to prison for polygamy. They come out, they're martyrs by the polygamist society, and they go right back to living it, and it's drove the polygamists' lifestyle into secrecy and it's actually made it stronger.

COOPER: You know, there may be some people watching this, that say well, look, you know, Warren Jeffs, OK, he seems like a bad guy, but what's the big deal? I mean, why should people care about it? Is he really that bad?

JESSOP: Well, yes, he absolutely is. And he's committing crimes against children. And if you look at the crimes he commits against adults, it has a terrible impact on a child's life, to the point that the child never fully recovers. I mean, imagine a child one day, his father comes home and says I'm not worthy to be your father and you will never see me again.

COOPER: It's hard to believe that it is still going on in this day and age. Carolyn Jessop, your story is just remarkable and you have such courage. And I appreciate you coming and talking with us. Thank you.

JESSOP: Well, thank you for the invitation.

COOPER: All right, well, we'll talk again.

We're going to have more of 360 in a moment. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Tomorrow, on "AMERICAN MORNING," call it the updated CSI effect -- setting fires to help solve crimes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Through experimentation and going back and recreating the fire, we're usually able to determine what happened, to a fairly good level of certainty.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Through this kind of simulation?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. And with our other tools, such as computer modeling and other things.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Tomorrow, cracking the arson fire code. We'll take you inside a state of the art facility. That's on "AMERICAN MORNING," starting at 6:00 a.m., Eastern.

Thanks for watching this special edition of 360.

"LARRY KING" is next. His guest Daredevil David Blaine, and Mary Cheney, the vice president's daughter.

See you tomorrow.

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