|RICK SMITH: Author unveils private world of Jeffs, FLDS|
|San Angelo Standard-Times|
SAN ANGELO, Texas — After years of intensive press coverage, we think we've heard all there is to know about the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Then along comes Sam Brower, a Utah private detective who spent seven years investigating the sect and its leader, Warren Jeffs.
His new book, "Prophet's Prey," investigates the private life of the sect, focusing on its now-imprisoned leader, Warren Jeffs. Brower will sign copies from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Hastings, 4238 Sunset Drive.
In the book, Brower traces Jeffs' involvement in the sect from childhood until his imprisonment.
It's not a pretty story.
The investigator admits he had a stake in revealing "FLDS atrocities and abuse." In 2004, he agreed to help a couple who were being forced from their home by the FLDS in Short Creek, Ariz.
Since then, he wrote, "my life had been dominated by Jeffs and his cohorts for years. My office overflowed with documents, transcripts of old court cases, boxes of tapes, files and folders and thousands of hours of recordings of Jeff's droning lectures. My brain was just as full. I probably knew more about the FLDS than most members of the religion did."
Describing the construction of the church's temple at Yearning for Zion Ranch near Eldorado, Brower writes: "Under Warren's alternative whips of blessing and condemnation, construction went with lightning speed. Nobody can build faster than a troop of motivated FLDS builders who are convinced they are working for their very lives and the prophet."
Brower also has a keen eye for detail, an investigator's obsession with cataloguing evidence.
On Aug. 28, 2006, a state trooper pulled over an SUV carrying Jeffs, who was then the FBI's most wanted fugitive, and two others near Las Vegas, Nev. After arresting Jeffs, law enforcement officials searched the vehicle for 2½ hours. Authorities, Brower said, "pulled an astonishing array of material from the cavernous SUV, everything a man on the run would need for survival: a police scanner, a radar detector, a couple of GPS navigational devices, a bunch of laptop computers, three iPods, better than a dozen cell phones and walkie-talkies; wigs, knives and sunglasses; 27 bricks of $100 bills, each worth $2,500; about $10,000 worth of prepaid credit cards; a duffel bag jammed with envelopes that contained even more money; the keys to no fewer than 10 new luxury SUVs standing by to be exchanged as fresh vehicles whenever the old ones became too hot; a "Book of Mormon" and a Bible; and finally, a photograph of Warren with his late father, Rulon. The captured computers eventually would yield a trove of evidentiary material, including the audio tape of Warren having sex with (an underage girl)."
Parts of the book are heartbreaking. Describing one of Jeffs' underage "brides," Brower wrote: "On her wedding day, July 27, 2006, (the underage girl) was only 12 years and 24 days old. She had a blazing mane of bright red hair and a smile that reached across her freckled face from ear to ear. In the outside world, she would have been a sixth-grader."
And he has a flair for drama. Describing Texas law officers breaking down the locked doors to the FLDS temple during the rain on the YFZ Ranch, Brower wrote: "The police cleared a path through the chanting men, who stood their ground and simply would not get out of the way. The cops wrestled a huge battering ram into position at the temple's massive oak front door, and the FLDS prayers for death turned into hymns, with a defiant, all-male chorus singing old Mormon songs of faith. The chant of the hymn 'The Spirit of God' rang out as the battering ram smashed against the big door with a booming, cannon-like thunder. The ram was so heavy that officers had to take turns handling it, and the doors were so thick and sturdy that it took police more than an hour to break through. All the while, the FLDS men sang out and prayed, chanting for the destruction of the officers, their voices rising like a demented choir."
Then, when the doors finally were battered down, "all around the wall, the men of the church collapsed like marionettes whose strings had been cut. Some dropped to their knees in disbelief, others fell prone and scrabbled in the dirt, and still others stood sobbing like children with their faces buried in their hands.
"Loud, agonized cries ripped the air, the sound of shattered faith."
Rick Smith is a local news and community affairs columnist. Contact Rick at email@example.com or 325-659-8248.
Originally published October 20, 2011
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