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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Tracking a Fugitive: The Hunt for Warren Jeffs
Aired May 19, 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.
Tonight, a special edition of 360, "Tracking a Fugitive," the hunt for polygamist leader Warren Jeffs.
ANNOUNCER: Tracking the money trail -- how can fugitive polygamist Warren Jeffs be raking in millions of dollars a month while he's on the run. We're keep them honest.
A broken family who believes they've been cursed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have 10 of them now on the wall over there that won't -- I don't even know when their grandchildren are born.
ANNOUNCER: How the wrath of Warren Jeffs changed their lives forever.
And the lost boys.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm totally an outcast now.
ANNOUNCER: He ran away from the faith; others were kicked out, and now they must start their lives all over again, and try to escape the shadows of a painful past.
This is a special edition of ANDERSON COOPER 360, "Tracking a Fugitive: The Hunt For Warren Jeffs." Here's Anderson Cooper.
COOPER: Good evening. Tonight we are tracking the fugitive polygamist leader Warren Jeffs. Since he's landed on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List, the FBI says that tips have poured in. But still, at this hour, his whereabouts are unknown. A $100,000 bounty is on his head.
To his thousands of followers, Warren Jeffs is a messiah, a prophet who speaks for God. To others, he's a madman, who's turned children into brides and destroyed families. He's accused of sexual contact with a minor.
But that's only the beginning. Tonight you'll hear stories of horror from those who knew Jeffs and dare to leave his sect. Tonight, we'll get you as close as possible to Warren Jeffs, revealing his secret hideouts and his secret sources of income. Warren Jeffs may be on the run, but his empire is vast, it is remote, and as you're about to see, it is surreal. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
COOPER (voice-over): Warren Jeffs is preparing his followers for the Kingdom of Heaven, but his kingdom here on earth is shrinking by the day. For the last 50 years, Colorado City, Arizona, and the neighboring town of Hildale, Utah have been home to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the FLDS, a polygamist sect now controlled by Warren Jeffs.
Before Jeffs ran the FLDS, his father, Rulon Jeffs, owned most of the property and controlled virtually the entire population here of polygamists. When his Rulon died in 2002, Warren took total control over the sect, insisting his followers cut themselves off from the outside world.
As CNN's Gary Tuchman found out in Colorado City, most people here want nothing to do with outsiders.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the center of commerce here in Colorado City. This is the Foodtown. 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 you can see there are some angry people here who don't want the camera.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No cameras allowed here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Say again?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sorry, this is private property, no cameras allowed.
COOPER: It didn't matter where Gary Tuchman went. His presence was unwelcome.
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.
COOPER: Jeffs also has followers in Canada, in a place that used to be called Creston, but was renamed by the church as Bountiful.
But it's in Texas that many believe Jeffs may be hiding. Facing lawsuits and prosecution, he and hundreds of his followers have settled on nearly 2,000 acres of land in west Texas.
This is the new home for the FLDS. A sprawling compound in the town of Eldorado. A locked fence seals it off, but that doesn't mean those inside aren't watching.
RANDY MANKIN, EDITOR, ELDORADO SUCCESS: We were there on the county road using some night vision surveillance, looking in toward the ranch. And to see them looking back at us with night vision surveillance was kind of eerie.
COOPER: Glimpses of the ranch, including this photograph of women and children working in the fields, reveal what some call a cult-like existence.
The pilot who flew over the ranch for us explains why Jeffs wants his followers in Eldorado.
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.
COOPER: In recent days, another FLDS compound has surfaced in South Dakota, where a silo, trailers and a three-story residence are visible. And whenever outsiders appear, women and children go into hiding. Some fear they may be forced to be there.
CHARLIE NAJACHT, CUSTER COUNTY CHRONICLE: You have women and children who they can't leave. They really can't leave. This is a cult. It's not a religion. And he's getting away with this stuff under the guise of being a religion.
COOPER: It's well known for years that Jeffs has split up families and reassigned wives. Author Jon Krakauer now says the practice has taken an even more ominous turn.
JON KRAKAUER, AUTHOR, "UNDER THE BANNER OF HEAVEN": One of the very disturbing things is that we are getting very credible reports, for over several months now that he was separating children younger than 7 from their families. He saw under the age of 7 as the age of innocence and bringing them without their families to Texas. So there is many, many scores, maybe hundreds of these very young children that he's brought there.
COOPER: Of course, Jeffs isn't the first sect to make west Texas home. Remember Waco?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've seen an explosion.
COOPER: It is similarities with David Koresh and the Branch Davidians that scare so many people who fear Warren Jeffs may bring his maniacal mission to a blood end.
KRAKAUER: If he is cornered, if he has no other way out, there's little doubt -- there's no doubt that he would kill himself and take as many people with him as he could, before he would submit to the law.
COOPER (on camera): As you heard, Jon Krakauer fears what may happen if Warren Jeffs is pushed into a corner. The best-selling author has studied Warren Jeffs' sect. I spoke to him earlier.
COOPER: Did authorities drop the ball on this? They've known about this for years and you've been talking about it for years.
KRAKAUER: Well, they didn't drop the ball. It was just the inevitable lack of focus. I mean, you know, it was predictable that there were some of us just begging someone to pay attention and get Warren Jeffs when it would have been relatively easy. But you know, and we could get the attention of some people low in the totem pole, but their superiors were distracted with what they thought were more pressing matters and they just weren't willing to devote the resources or whatever.
I mean, the same thing happened with David Koresh and Waco. It would have been easy to arrest him on numerous occasions, but they waited until there was a crisis.
COOPER: I man, we were in Eldorado. We had correspondents there yesterday, and you know, it's not as if authorities are blockading the compound or anything like that. I mean, it doesn't -- on the surface, it doesn't look like there is that rush to, you know, to quickly move in there. I mean, local law enforcement told our reporter, look, you know, unless they know for a fact that he is there, they're not going to move in.
KRAKAUER: Well, yes. I don't know. I mean, there have been other statements by federal officers saying, look if we knew he was there, we'd go in right now and get him. You know, he is there. He's almost certainly there. He might not be there this minute, but he's spent most of his time there. I'm convinced of it.
COOPER: Because it sounds like he's been pulling up stakes from Hildale in Utah and from Colorado City and sort of getting his chosen followers all to go to this place in Texas. And we're looking at pictures of the compound now.
KRAKAUER: Yes, I mean, one of the very disturbing things is that we are getting very credible reports for over several months now that he was separating children younger than 7 from their families. He saw under the age of 7 as the age of innocence and bringing them without their families to Texas. So there is many, many scores, maybe hundreds of these very young children that he's brought there.
COOPER: So he would just take these little kids away from their parents and just say, you know, send them down to Texas?
KRAKAUER: That's right. In many instances. Sometimes if the parents were among the favored, they would go as well. But in many instances, we have, you know, very worried parents calling me, saying, can you check? Can you see how my children are? They've been taken from me.
COOPER: And for those who don't understand, the idea, the need to have multiple wives, it's basically the only way that men can get into heaven; and for wives to agree to be, you know, one of several wives, is the only way for them -- and to be obedient to the male -- is the only way to get into heaven. Is that correct?
KRAKAUER: Yes, it goes back to the original teachings of the LDS church in Joseph Smith's day. And the Mormon church, as you pointed out correctly and importantly, has moved beyond that and now no longer practices polygamy. But the fundamentalists believe the church went wrong when they did that. So, you know, Joseph Smith said this wasn't a minor thing. It was one of his most important and holy doctrines that was ever revealed to man on earth.
COOPER: The concern, obviously, for authorities if they did go in, is keeping him alive and keeping -- and not having this end in some sort of a bloodbath.
In a sense, he would become a martyr to his followers if he did die.
KRAKAUER: And this is an important point. I'm glad you brought that up because this is -- you know, everyone's concerned about avoiding a great loss of life. I mean, everyone is, I think, law enforcement is very aware of that, especially in Texas. But what people seem to be less aware of is that you can't go in there and simply kill Warren either. If you -- if you left everyone else alive and killed Warren, you would have a huge problem.
I mane, these people, by nature, Warren's followers are not violent. They're good people, most of them. They're good, hard- working people. They happen to believe in a very dangerous man. And to protect him or to avenge his death, they would do things that they wouldn't do ordinarily because they are true believers. And you have to take that seriously.
COOPER: John Krakauer is convinced Warren Jeffs is in Texas. But recently, we found out they were starting another community in South Dakota, far away from prying eyes. We showed you a glimpse of it earlier, but there is much more to see.
CNN's Rick Sanchez investigates.
RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the black hills of South Dakota, there's a mysterious change in the landscape. On 100 acres, a village -- really, a secret society has suddenly sprouted.
Its residents believe this man, Warren Jeffs, is a prophet. His power over their lives, absolute. But the FBI calls him a polygamist, a pedophile.
(on camera): There it is, Mt. Rushmore, one of America's most important landmarks. In fact, this entire area is brimming with history. The pioneers, the old west, the stories that we read about as children. This is the very landscape of American tradition.
That's why it seems so bizarre to so many around here to suddenly have a polygamist sect in the shadows of this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not good. We don't want to have another Waco or something like that.
SANCHEZ (voice-over): Dennis Anderson, who lives here in Custer County, wonders why the sect came here.
(on camera): We look for answers by heading out on this dirt road toward the polygamist compound to try to better understand Jeffs' prophecy about the end of the world and how only his chosen believers in these new compounds in South Dakota, Nevada, Canada, and the one we recently visited in Texas will survive.
We're making our way toward what we understand is the compound. Now, remember, when we were in Texas, we weren't even able to come close to it. But we're told if we follow this direction -- in fact, look, there it is. There's the FLDS compound in South Dakota. Literally, a stone's throw away.
(voice-over): A man wearing what seems to be the uniform here, dark pants, blue shirt, scurries away from us.
In the background, a backhoe keeps working. There's a three- story residence, a silo, trailers, a well for water. Noticeably absent? Children and women, who go into hiding when outsiders arrive.
CHARLIE NAJACHT, CUSTER COUNTY CHRONICLE: You have women and children who -- they can't leave. They really can't leave. This is a cult. It's not a religion. And he's getting away with this stuff under the guise of being a religion.
SANCHEZ: Charlie Najacht publishes the "Custer County Chronicle." He suspects Warren Jeffs, himself, has been here.
(on camera): He says this remote site, like those in Texas and Nevada, was chosen so Jeffs, his lieutenants and followers could avoid the spotlight authorities in Arizona and Utah are now shining on them.
What's the difference? What can they do here that they can't do there?
NAJACHT: I think there they're easily observed. This is private property. So nobody needs to come out here for any reason.
SANCHEZ: He's right. In fact, the man who issued the building permit tells us, he's yet to inspect the property. Even though the permit's signed by FLDS member and Jeffs' nephew David Alred (ph), may have been filed under false pretenses.
What did they tell you they were going to be using that property for here?
REX HARRIS, CUSTER COUNTY PLANNER: They never really said. They just said they were doing a lodge.
SANCHEZ: A lodge? HARRIS: The inference was hunting, but it was never really stated.
SANCHEZ (voice-over): Neighbors who share a property line with the polygamist sect, say authorities aren't doing enough.
This couple would only talk to us when we agreed not to use their names or show their faces.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think when you're marrying 12-year-old, 13- year-old or 14-year-old girls, you're not only breaking the law, but you're a pervert and a pedophile. And that's what Warren Jeffs is.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What they do to the women and children is chattel and the abuse, it's got to stop.
SANCHEZ (on camera): It's got to stop?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, it does. You cannot be abusing children and women and marrying them off at 12-years old, 13-years-old to older men that are 60 years old and 70 years old.
SANCHEZ (voice-over): For now, of course, it's impossible to know what's going on in there. Impossible to know where the so-called prophet is leading his followers in the shadow of Mt. Rushmore.
Rick Sanchez, CNN, Custer County, South Dakota.
COOPER: So, how can Warren Jeffs afford to set up new communities? That's what we wanted to find out. So we asked CNN's Randi Kaye to follow the money trail.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Are you a follower of Warren Jeffs?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: A stunning new lead in the hunt for Warren Jeffs. A potential source of tens of millions of dollars each year. All from construction companies like this one, believed to be tied to Jeffs. We're checking the facts and keeping them honest.
Plus, teenagers who have escaped from Warren Jeffs' compound. Now homeless, working odd jobs, just trying to get by on their own. Coming up, what they say about life inside the sect.
And they live in a town founded by Warren Jeffs' sect and they are hated there. Why they left the church and why they lost some of their children to do it, when this special edition of 360, "The Hunt for Warren Jeffs," continues.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: This is Fugitive Polygamist Warren Jeffs singing. Former followers say his songs were played constantly in their isolated community. All other music is banned. So is television, sports and books, except scripture and Warren Jeffs singing.
He's been on the FBI's most wanted list since May 6 and leads are pouring in, according to authorities. But So far, right now, no one can say for sure where Warren Jeffs is.
Authorities are following a new trail, however -- the money trail. And tonight, so are we. There are reports that Warren Jeffs may still be making millions of dollars every year.
The idea that a fugitive could be raking in that kind of money is surprising. We asked CNN's Randi Kaye to follow the money trail.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From a distance, this Nevada construction site looks ordinary. But law enforcement says it's hardly what you imagine. They believe this site may be the beginning of a money trail that funnels millions of dollars to FBI Fugitive Polygamist Warren Jeffs, even while he's on the run.
GARY ENGELS, SPECIAL INVESTIGATOR, MOHAVE COUNTY, ARIZONA: He's probably bringing in close to $2 million a month.
KAYE (on camera): If true, that would be $24 million a year. How does it work? Carolyn Blakemore Jessop, a former member of Jeffs' church, says Jeffs orders men from the sect to work for construction companies owned by FLDS church leaders, but those men don't see a penny.
CAROLYN BLAKEMORE JESSOP, FORMER FLDS MEMBER: And these specific companies that he would assign them to work for, very often just didn't give them a paycheck. They didn't give them anything at all.
KAYE: And where did the money go instead of in workers' pocket.
BLAKEMORE JESSOP: It went to Warren.
KAYE (voice-over): Jessop says her son was assigned a construction job when he was just 12, and never got paid. Instead, families donated the 100 percent of their earnings to Jeffs. That put them on welfare -- money out of your pocket, while Jeffs got rich.
And even though the man they call the prophet is in hiding, investigators believe it's still business as usual.
(on camera): We're in the car about an hour north of Las Vegas, in Mesquite, Nevada. And like the investigators, we are trying to follow the money. We are heading to a construction site where some members of the church work to see what they have to say about where the money is going.
(voice-over): Immediately, we spot men who, like members of the sect, are dressed from their necks to their ankles, despite the searing heat.
(on camera): I'm Randi Kaye with CNN. Are you affiliated at all with Warren Jeffs and the FLDS church?
We try again.
Are you a follower of Warren Jeffs?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't have anything to say.
KAYE: Are you affiliated at all with the FLDS church?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't have anything to say. We're just doing work here.
KAYE: Is any of the money from here or all of the money here...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't have anything to say.
KAYE: Do you donate any of it to the church, to Warren Jeffs?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't have anything to say.
KAYE: In minutes, the supervisor arrives.
We're with CNN and we're doing a story here. We're following the money on Warren Jeffs.
RON HARRINGTON, SITE SUPERVISOR: I realize that.
KAYE: Do you know who these guys all work for, who contracts them out?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, they're working for a Prism or Paragon.
KAYE: Prism and Paragon, just two of the many companies investigators and Carolyn Jessop say are owned by Jeffs' church members.
CNN has also learned Dagrow Truss, and one of its owners, Guy Alred (ph), who investigators say is a sect member, is of interest to them.
We tried to talk with him at his company headquarters in Nevada, and asked about his brother, David who bought property, used by church members.
I was told neither one of them would be willing to talk with me and that we should take our cameras and go. Which is what we're doing now.
(voice-over): But the hunt for Jeffs continues. Investigators are keeping an eye out for new construction, banking on the fact Jeffs wouldn't be too far away.
(on camera): We made calls to both Prism contractors and Paragon contractors. The man who answered the phone at Prism, as soon as we identified ourselves as CNN, told us, no comment.
We left several messages at Paragon. They have not returned our calls.
Randi Kaye, CNN, Salt Lake City, Utah.
COOPER: Warren Jeffs is all about control. He has absolute power over his sect. He's separated women from their husbands, given them to other men. He's broken up families, taken children away from their own parents.
Over the years, several hundred young men, teenagers, have left Warren Jeffs' sect. They're called the "Lost Boys." Some of them have been cast out by Jeffs.
Others, like Sam, have run away.
SAM, "LOST BOY": He took my hand and he prayed for me to die. He took it away.
COOPER: Coming up, a young man shares what happened to him when he dared turn his back on Warren Jeffs.
Also, they look like an ordinary family, only bigger. One husband, three wives and 21 children. They don't follow Warren Jeffs, but they are polygamists and believe God wants them to live this way. Their secret life revealed, next.
You're watching a special edition of 360, "The Hunt for Warren Jeffs."
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi everybody, I'm Heidi Collins, here in New York. In just a moment, more of "Tracking a Fugitive: The Hunt for Warren Jeffs."
But first, I'm going to get to these news headlines.
Criticism of the federal air marshal program. A new congressional report saying dress code and check-in procedures make it hard for marshals to remain anonymous. The report also knocks officials for retaliating against marshals who bring problems like these to light.
And an attempted rebellion at American detention camp at Guantanamo Bay. It happened last night. Prisoners staging a phony suicide, then attacking guards with makeshift weapons. Luckily, no serious injuries and eventually, troops regained control.
Finally, it turns out the Michigan farm, where authorities are searching for Jimmy Hoffa, once belonged to a former associate of the missing teamster. The FBI, apparently relying on information from a tipster who says he saw suspicious activity there back on July 30, 1975. That was the day Hoffa was last seen alive.
Next, back to AC 360, "Tracking a Fugitive."
COOPER (voice-over): For years, this has been home base for Warren Jeffs' polygamist sect, at the edge of the desert, miles from anywhere else. Along the Utah-Arizona border, lies the towns of Hildale and Colorado city.
Most of Jeffs' 10,000 or so followers live here behind huge walls and gates. Residents live largely rent-free, but they're at the mercy of Jeffs and his church.
(on camera): The worldwide manhunt for Fugitive Warren Jeffs has thrust his polygamist sect into the spotlight they have so long tried to avoid.
To the FBI, Jeffs is a criminal, accused sexual misconduct with a minor. But to his followers, he is a prophet who channels divine revelations. He also wields absolute control over their lives.
Day by day, we're learning now details about what life is like inside Jeffs' sect. Many of those details come from young men, often teenagers, called the "Lost Boys," who have either been cast out of the sect or run away.
Here's CNN's Dan Simon.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This young man's trade is home construction. Ironic, perhaps, because Sam is actually homeless.
Until two months ago, he lived in Colorado City, Arizona. In fact, Sam grew up in the isolated polygamist community led by Fugitive Warren Jeffs.
SAM, FLED SECT: I'm totally an outcast now.
SIMON: We caught up with the 17-year-old and his friends in St. George, Utah, a town that has taken in dozens, if not hundreds, of the so-called "Lost Boys," Teenage boys who were either kicked out of the sect run by Jeffs or, like Sam, fled.
He says he ran away after hearing about the outside world from relatives. He became aware of the freedoms absent in his life.
SAM: And we always had to hide in the closet to watch movies, and could never do anything fun. Always working every day. Just all these rules and regulations. Couldn't have girlfriends. Couldn't talk to girls or wave to them or anything. Felt pretty lame so we just left.
SIMON: Bruce Barlow was one of Sam's closest friends. The two ran away together.
BRUCE BARLOW, FLED SECT: You can't walk down the streets. You can't...
SIMON: You couldn't just walk down the street?
BARLOW: Yes. You have to get a ride wherever you go.
SIMON: Most kids can ride bikes.
BARLOW: No. You have to get a ride.
SIMON: It was one of Jeffs' orders.
SAM: And everybody believes him so much because they're taught since they're little kids. If we disobey him, we'll go to hell.
SIMON: Sam was always taught to believe in having multiple wives, something he now finds morally wrong.
What do you think about these young girls marrying these older men.
SAM: I think it's pretty much like rape because they're taught from when they're little to marry the older men and become plural wives, and so they don't really know anything else.
SIMON: Do you think it's like rape?
SAM: Yes, because they don't really have a choice.
SIMON: Sam never finished the ninth grade. He attended a school operated by Jeffs. He says it did not teach American history or science.
Now, Sam makes his way alone. He sleeps on friends' floors. Perhaps not surprisingly, he is thrilled by new freedoms. Among his first acts of independence, he had his ears pierced and his hair bleached.
He says the construction work is temporary. He wants to go back to school. And he says he probably wouldn't have left Colorado City, had it not been for Warren Jeffs.
When Jeffs came into power four years ago and proclaimed himself a prophet, Sam says he did everything possible to isolate his followers from the outside world.
SIMON (on camera): Help me understand this. He made these changes just a few years ago?
SIMON: He came in and said OK, everybody, no more cartoons. You can't watch them anymore?
SAM: Yes. No more movies, no more TV, no more Internet in the homes. Everything.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can't hear the words very good. They kind of mumble.
SIMON (voice-over): The kids say they grew up without ever listening to music, except for what Jeffs gave them.
This is Jeffs singing. They say it played constantly in their homes and cars.
Are you kind of aware that you didn't really have a normal childhood?
SAM: Yes, but I mean, we always taught that we're better. I mean, we're like a chosen race. I mean, everybody -- we see people with short sleeves when I was little, and stuff, and call them wicked and stuff. It's like we were so high and mighty. I mean, we're the better people.
SIMON: Sam knows he may never see his nine brothers and sisters and parents again, but he says he has no regrets about leaving.
Dan Simon, CNN, St. George, Utah.
COOPER: Warren Jeffs hasn't been seen by the outside world in at least a year.
But a man who has been very publicly defending the FLDS and Jeffs since 1990 is an attorney named Rodney Parker.
(voice-over): Recently, Parker's work on behalf of another polygamist ended with the Utah Supreme Court weighing in on efforts to decriminalize polygamy.
I spoke to Parker earlier.
(on camera): The Utah Supreme Court, they rejected a bid by a client of yours, a guy named Rodney Holm (ph), to decriminalize polygamy. He had several wives, one wife legally, the others, what they call spiritual wives. Were you disappointed by the ruling?
RODNEY PARKER, ATTORNEY FOR FLDS CHURCH: Well, I was disappointed by the ruling, but I think what's more important about it is the historic nature of the dissent in the case. The chief justice wrote that she would have held polygamy constitutionally protected as between consenting adults, which is what I think is the important point for most of the people who practice that practice in the state of Utah. I think that really is historic. She's the highest judicial officer in the state. She exposes the flaws in the arguments on the other side.
COOPER: You think polygamy should be decriminalized?
PARKER: I think that polygamy among consenting adults, that decriminalizing polygamy among consenting adults would go a long ways toward reducing the problems that we see coming out of polygamist societies. Those problems are largely the result of the societies being closed societies and that in turn, is a result of criminalizing their lifestyles.
COOPER: I mean, I guess one of the problems you refer to in these societies is sex with minors. The justices were unanimous in convicting your client, who I guess was a sheriff at one time in Hildale, for unlawful sexual conduct with a minor. He had a relationship with a 16-year-old girl, more than half his age. How do you defend against that?
PARKER: Well, you're asking me as a lawyer how I defend against that. And there were arguments made that defended against that claim.
On a less lawyerly level, what we were really talking about within the community was a marriage. I understand the statutes involved don't consider that to be a marriage, but that was what the parties considered it to be and I think you have to look at their conduct at least in terms of judging it in the context in which it occurred.
COOPER: You've defended Warren Jeffs in the past. And I know, obviously, you can't talk about the conversations you had. Can you tell us just what kind of a guy he is? How he struck you or how he, you know, dealt with legal issues in the past?
PARKER: Yes, because of my relationship as an attorney for him, I can't say a lot about that. But I would say this, that one of the things that I hear often proposed about him is that he's a pretender to this office, that he's really in this position for power or for money or for sex. And that much I can say is definitely not the case, that he is sincere in his belief that he holds this office, that it's a religious office. He's very religiously oriented and religiously motivated. And it just is doing a disservice to him and to the people who follow him to characterize him in any other way or to characterize their church as a criminal or organization.
COOPER: Even within Jeffs' own sect, there are sharp divisions and battle lines. Cross him, and retribution can get very personal indeed. Just ask one follower, banned from seeing some of his 110 grandchildren.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have 10 of them now. I don't even know when my grandchildren are born.
COOPER: A broken family, not by choice. That story coming up. Plus, meet polygamists whose have nothing to do with Warren Jeffs. They say polygamy is not about submission or sex. Their candid admissions and their secret lives when this special edition of 360 continues.
COOPER (voice-over): Recently Warren Jeffs has been moving his chosen followers to this compound in Eldorado, Texas. A 1,600-acre spread still under construction.
It's called Yearning for Zion, because this is where Jeffs has told them they need to be when the world, as we know it, comes to an end.
But locals here worry the isolated compound could be the scene of a showdown with law enforcement, the next Waco.
(on camera): But to better understand Jeffs' sect, you have to probe for details. You have to talk to former members.
That's what CNN's Gary Tuchman has been up to.
TUCHMAN: In the town of Colorado City, Arizona, where almost all of the estimated 9,000 residents are supporters of FBI Fugitive Warren Jeffs, Lydia and Nora are visiting their grandparents' house.
They are two of the 110 grandchildren of Marvin Wyler, his wife Charlette and his two other wives.
(on camera): So how many children do you have altogether?
MARVIN WYLER, POLYGAMIST: I have 34 children. They're my life. That's all I've accomplished in this life are these children. I don't have any money. I'm broke as a toad.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Marvin had his first child in 1965, his most recent in 1994. His three wives are in front of him in this picture. His third wife died in a car crash. His first wife does not want to go on camera.
Charlette is his second wife of 39 years.
TUCHMAN (on camera): These are all your children -- 34 children? Do you know all their names?
CHARLETTE, POLYGAMIST: Yes.
TUCHMAN: Right off the bat?
TUCHMAN: Let's see.
CHARLETTE: Isaac, John, Leann, Ross, Margo...
TUCHMAN (voice-over): She gave birth to 16 of these 34 children.
(on camera): If he wanted to marry another woman, would that be OK with you?
CHARLETTE: I would feel really good about it.
TUCHMAN: If he married another woman?
CHARLETTE: I would. I would feel really, really good about it.
TUCHMAN: Two, three other women, OK with it?
CHARLETTE: Yes. I don't think I'd feel very good if he had 15, but.
TUCHMAN: But a few more is OK?
CHARLETTE: But, yes, oh, yes.
TUCHMAN: And is that a possibility, Marvin, that you may take on another wife or two?
MARVIN: It would be possible, but it doesn't look like it's probable, because I haven't been able to find one to marry me for 30 years.
CHARLETTE: Of course, he hasn't been out soliciting, let's say.
TUCHMAN: Marvin and Charlette both come from religious plural marriage homes. Marvin's mother was in prison for her polygamist lifestyle.
MARVIN: I was a baby and so my mother was allowed to keep me in her cell. They had no bathrooms, there was only a bucket.
TUCHMAN: On the wall of the family home, the portrait of Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon religion, next to Warren Jeffs' father, Rulon, who had led this fundamentalist movement until his death in 2002. He's buried in a cemetery in Colorado City, regarded by followers as a prophet.
But just before Rulon died...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think I will go if it's on Friday.
TUCHMAN: The Wylers grew concerned about the church. The breaking point came when Rulon preached the following words with his son, Warren, standing close by.
CHARLETTE: He wanted the destruction of Arizona and Utah. The states of Arizona and Utah, because they were making laws against plural marriage.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): That was it. They denounced the church and the Wylers became persona non grata in Colorado City. Their home has been vandalized. Many of Jeffs' followers want them out.
(on camera): Have you ever thought of leaving?
TUCHMAN: How come?
MARVIN: What would I do? I don't have any money. How can I go off and start all over again? I have a home here.
TUCHMAN: It's frightening, isn't it?
CHARLETTE: Well, it is, yes.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): But imagine this. Warren Jeffs, who used to live in this compound in Colorado City, instructed the Wylers' children not to ever talk to them again. And 10 of the kids followed his orders.
CHARLETTE: And Dorothy -- I haven't actually seen Dorothy for a year and a half or talked to her.
TUCHMAN: So you haven't seen this daughter for a year and a half because of...
MARVIN: Warren Jeffs' edict.
TUCHMAN: Warren Jeffs' edict.
CHARLETTE: Yes. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, just crying and just high anxiety, you know. And just, eyes are like this, you know.
TUCHMAN: How do you feel about that?
MARVIN: Tore me clear apart.
TUCHMAN: Of course it tore you apart. This is your flesh and blood.
MARVIN: Yes. My family was everything, and I have 10 of them now on the wall over there that won't -- I don't even know when the grandchildren are born.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): The three youngest children still live in the home. The Wylers still teach them plural marriage is what God wants.
Parley, who is 11, wants three or four wives.
(on camera): How do you feel about people who don't think you should ever marry more than one wife?
PARLEY WLYER, SON OF POLYGAMIST: That they're missing out.
TUCHMAN: Missing out on what?
P. WYLER: On all of the blessings that can come from it.
TUCHMAN: The Wylers believe they have been blessed. But they also know they've been cursed.
Gary Tuchman, CNN, Colorado City, Arizona.
COOPER: Not all polygamists are associated with Warren Jeffs. Some could be your next door neighbors.
Coming up, we'll hear one family's passionate defense of their polygamist beliefs.
Plus, there's another polygamist leader on the run. The latest on the search for him and the reporter who is hot on his trail.
You're watching "The Hunt for Warren Jeffs," a special edition of 360.
COOPER: The hunt for Warren Jeffs has blown the lid off the secret world of polygamy here in America. There are as many as 30,000 polygamists right now in the United States, according to some experts. And many of them don't belong to any particular sect. Some of them live in suburban neighborhoods and just want to blend in.
As Heidi Collins found out in Salt Lake City.
COLLINS (voice-over): It's their favorite time of the day. Their dad's home from work. And now, it's family time. But family time at this suburban Salt Lake City household is a bit different.
JOE, POLYGAMIST: I have three wives and 21 children that I am a father to.
COLLINS: This is Joe. Joe is a polygamist. He's also a successful businessman. He does not want his identity revealed because he wants to protect not only his family, but also his lucrative business relationships. Many wouldn't approve of his lifestyle.
(on camera): Why is it important for you to be understood?
JOE: I think it's important that not so much I'm understood, but the many, many people like me are understood.
We are men that take on a tremendous amount of responsibility for a very good purpose, and not for a sinister purpose.
COLLINS (voice-over): It's hard to think about polygamy without the stereotypes that come with it. The old-fashioned clothing, the compounds with walls to conceal them, and submissive women.
JOE: We're not on welfare. This isn't about sex. It's not about control or oppression or abuse. It's about choice. And about a very spiritual choice for us.
COLLINS: You can see the difference when visiting the home he shares with his three wives and 19 of his children.
These are Joe's second and third wives. Joe's first and only legal wife declined to speak with us on camera, but Vicki and Valerie say this lifestyle is certainly their choice.
VICKI, POLYGAMIST: It's a choice that, you know, you know going into it that that's what you're going to do. And it does take a lot of, I guess, sacrifice or just selflessness, kind of overcoming a lot of natural selfish tendencies in people.
COLLINS (on camera): If you had to say what was the absolute best part about this lifestyle?
VICKI: I think just the closeness that we share. I mean, there's nothing like just having all these children around to interact with and have all the love that goes back and forth between us.
VALERIE, POLYGAMIST: I love it for the fact that it really makes you expand yourself.
COLLINS (voice-over): Joe's 37. His 21 kids range from five weeks to 15 years old. He says his many kids are a spiritual calling, and that he works hard at being a good father.
JOE: I think people have to know that they have me time. I do daddy/daughter dates. I do sports activities with my kids. Times when they know that that's me and them.
COLLINS: The older children asked not to be on camera. They worry about backlash from their friends. The kids do attend regular schools, play sports and instruments. They even have friends come over to play. But they are always cautious.
Joe and his wives don't want their kids to live in secrecy, but they know their lives are illegal.
(on camera): What is it like to not be able to be as truthful as you'd like to be?
JOE: It's hard because I'm such a forthright person. I'm not ashamed of who I am or what I do. And so I don't necessarily try to hide it, but at times you have to be very discreet.
COLLINS (voice-over): They are not affiliated with any particular sect of the Mormon church, but Joe and his wives do consider themselves independent Mormons. They see the polygamist lifestyle a part of their calling.
(on camera): What is something that you would like people out there to know about the way you live?
VICKI: Just that we are really -- we're human. We're like so many other people. We have a lot of the same feelings, worries, things like that. We just go through the same kind of ups and downs.
JOE: We're people, too. We deserve the same rights and the same religious freedoms and the same opportunities to pursue happiness as everyone else.
COLLINS: Heidi Collins, CNN, Utah.
COOPER: Ahead, another polygamist leader on the run. He was once a follower of Warren Jeffs, but now claims he is a prophet. He's also in trouble with the law.
A break first. You're watching a special edition of 360, "The Hunt for Warren Jeffs."
COLLINS: Hi again, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins, here in New York. In a moment, more of Tracking a Fugitive: The Hunt for Warren Jeffs."
But first, business headlines now.
Stocks closing lightly on the plus side for the day. The Dow finishing up about a tenth of 1 percent, but down more than 2 percent for the week, the worst week since January.
And another decline, though, a good one this time. The price of a barrel of oil, sinking below $69 a barrel. A five-week low, in fact. With that said, market watchers warn it won't get much lower. Oil producers are pumping all they can at the moment.
And Alan Greenspan makes it as official as a retired official can make it. The former fed chair saying in his view, the housing boom is over and so is the danger of a crash.
Up next, back to our 360 special now, "Tracking a Fugitive."
COOPER (voice-over): Bountiful, British Columbia, is built on secrets. A remote pocket of polygamy in Canada, where the motto for women is, keep sweet and obey men. A town founded by Warren Jeffs' followers. But are the women who live here really free to leave? (on camera): No matter what polygamist defenders say, no matter how they try to defend it, polygamy is illegal here in the United States.
And it turns out Warren Jeffs isn't the only polygamist leader on the run.
This man, Orson William Black, Junior, is also wanted by police. He's a former follower of Jeffs who sees himself as a prophet. He's been a fugitive since 2003, fleeing charges of having sex with minors.
Michael Watkiss, an investigative reporter for KTVK has been closely following the Black case.
Black's been on the run since 2003. You've been on his trail since then. Why do you think the U.S. Marshal Service is intensifying efforts now to catch him?
MICHAEL WATKISS, KTVK-TV INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Because everybody is now talking about polygamy, Anderson. That's the bottom line. We tried to get law enforcement agents to get active in this case. We've tracked him down on two occasions. We wondered why local cops couldn't do it. We tracked him all the way to Mexico.
The good news is people are talking about this. This guy is a bona fide bad guy, a pedophile. A lot of these polygamist men are born into these communities. They do what they're told. They're not intrinsically bad people, but it's a very convenient theological justification for somebody like Orson William Black. He's a pedophile, he preys on adolescent girls, has a whole string of young brides, 13, 14 years of age. It's high time that they're looking for him.
COOPER: He's been charged with having unlawful sex with minors. He apparently or allegedly beat one of his wives so bad that she ran away, leaving her own kids behind to save herself. Why hasn't there been, I mean, more urgency to catch him? It feels like authorities for a long time have kind of just turned a blind eye to this.
WATKISS: Well, your sort of disbelief is shared by all of us who have been following this for many years. What we have tried to do here in Phoenix is not talk about well, there's these alleged misbehaviors. We went out and found actual victims, documented actual crimes and then confronted actual perpetrators, thinking that would be enough to make law officers jump into action.
It's taken us 10 years to get to this point. But the bottom line, we're talking about it on the ANDERSON COOPER show here on CNN. That's good. The FBI is looking for Warren Jeffs. The U.S. marshals are now looking for Orson William Black. That's all good news.
COOPER: You know, Michael, there's some who say, look, this is an alternative lifestyle. You know, this is -- a lot is being made about this, and it shouldn't be. To those people, what do you say?
WATKISS: Well, I say that I know families just like the one on "Big Love," families where the women are mature or well educated, and they make choices.
Let me tell you, those are the distinct minority. At a place like Colorado City where you have industrial-scale polygamy, you basically need an assembly line of young girls. Girls born into that community, have no choices, they have no education, they are plucked as teenagers and parceled out by the prophet. That is his source of power. To make it work, he has to have this cattle call of young girls at his disposal.
On the flip side, the collateral damage is, you've got to drive a certain percentage of the young boys out of the community because they are threats and they are competition for the young girls. Those are the two naked realities.
And then beyond that with Warren Jeffs, you've got all this criminal behavior, the fraud and the theft of tax dollars in welfare, in terms of the school district up there.
Again, all of us are wondering, why it's taken so long, but again, the good news is, we're talking about it now.
COOPER: It's interesting because this guy, Black, who you're on the trail of, he used to be a follower of Warren Jeffs, and then he broke off and declared himself a prophet just like Jeffs is. What happened?
WATKISS: Well, I'm not a theologian, but I understand that with this belief system, any man can basically decide he's a prophet. Orson William Black has decided in his own mind that he's a prophet. He now has a couple of dozen followers from what I understand. So he has some support while he's a fugitive. But he broke off from Warren Jeffs some years ago, and basically has his own little thing going.
He has interests in Mexico. He has a lot of supporters up on the Utah-Arizona border. So he's mobile. He has money. He may well be armed. He probably should be considered dangerous. But hopefully the U.S. marshals are serious about getting this guy.
COOPER: Michael Watkiss, appreciate you joining us, as always. You've been on this story longer than anyone. Thank you, Michael.
WATKISS: Thanks, Anderson.
COOPER: This special edition of 360, "The Hunt for Warren Jeffs," continues in a moment.
COOPER: Thanks very much for watching this special edition of 360, "The Hunt for Warren Jeffs." I'm Anderson Cooper.
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