- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 27, 2005

DENVER — Pueblo County sheriff’s deputies pulled over a Ford Excursion weaving on U.S. Highway 50 last month and found more than a suspected drunken driver.

In the back of the vehicle was Seth Steed Jeffs, younger brother of Warren Steed Jeffs, the iron-fisted leader of the Jeffs’ polygamy clan wanted by state and federal authorities for purportedly arranging the marriages of underage girls to older, married men.

With Mr. Jeffs were items likely intended for his brother, including $142,000 in cash in envelopes addressed to the fugitive; prepaid phone cards; debit cards; seven cell phones; and a donation jar with Warren Jeffs’ photo labeled “Pennies for the Prophet.”

It was a huge break in the manhunt for Warren Jeffs, 49, who disappeared months before an Arizona grand jury indicted him in June on charges of sexual misconduct with a minor. The president and prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also is wanted by the FBI for sexual conduct with a minor, conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor and unlawful flight from prosecution.

Deputies searching the vehicle also found Warren Jeffs’ personal tax documents and letters addressed to him. Then they found something not usually associated with the strict polygamous sect: At the wheel was a 27-year-old man who claimed Seth Jeffs paid him $5,000 for sex.

Seth Jeffs, 32, was charged Nov. 17 in U.S. District Court in Denver with harboring a fugitive. He also was cited by the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office for soliciting a prostitute. He was released on $25,000 bond and is scheduled to face trial Jan. 9 in Denver.

Seth Jeffs has refused to divulge the whereabouts of his brother, telling the FBI that it would be “stupid to tell anyone where he is, because he would get caught.”

The arrest occurred during a time of upheaval in the prosperous but secretive Jeffs clan. In 2002, Warren Jeffs became the prophet after the death of his 92-year-old father, Rulon Jeffs, and immediately began consolidating his rule.

He excommunicated longtime members and assigned their wives and children to other men. He instructed followers to rely on his teachings and not the Bible, and banned virtually all contact with the outside world.

After living in the adjacent communities of Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah, for more than 70 years, the clan now is being relocated to Eldorado, Texas. About half of its estimated 10,000 members have moved to Eldorado to construct a community eerily reminiscent of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas.

“[Warren] is getting more extreme every day, more fanatical,” said Pennie Petersen, who left the Jeffs clan 20 years ago, but whose sister remains a follower. “He’s secluding the people, pulling them closer. This could end up as some kind of Waco deal.”

The Branch Davidians, a religious sect led by self-styled prophet David Koresh, set up a compound in Waco, where more than 70 members perished during a siege by federal agents in April 1993 after a 51-day standoff.

David Zolman, a former Utah state legislator who supports the religious rights of polygamists, says he and others — including polygamists from other clans — have urged the Jeffs to stop marrying off underage girls, to no avail.

“We tried to persuade them — ‘Why don’t you follow the law?’” Mr. Zolman said. “They said, ‘You mind your business, and we’ll mind ours.’”

He disagrees with predictions that the search for Warren Jeffs could end violently.

“This is not like the Branch Davidians. These people prize life,” Mr. Zolman said. “I don’t see them having a death wish.”

At the same time, he gave authorities little chance of finding Warren Jeffs, unless he wants to be found.

“You put a bounty on that guy’s head, and he’s more the prophet than he ever was,” Mr. Zolman said.

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