Feb 14, 2023

Polygamous kidnapping suspect Heber Jeffs captured in North Dakota; 10-year-old girl found safe, father says

Polygamous kidnapping suspect Heber Jeffs captured in North Dakota; 10-year-old girl found safe, father says

FEBRUARY 13, 2023 

The nephew of imprisoned Utah polygamous leader Warren Jeffs has been captured and is jailed in North Dakota on kidnapping charges, a sheriff said Monday. The 10-year-old girl he is accused of running off with was found safe, her father told a TV station.

Heber Jeffs was arrested by federal agents and brought to the Ward County Jail in Minot on Saturday, where he remains pending an extradition hearing scheduled for Monday afternoon, Sheriff Bob Roed said. It wasn't immediately clear if Heber Jeffs had an attorney.

The girl's father, Dowayne Barlow, told KSTU-TV in Salt Lake City that she was safe and would be returned soon.

"She's safe, she's found," Barlow told the station on Sunday.

Roed said he had no specific details about the arrest because his agency wasn't involved. An FBI spokesman referred questions to authorities in two Utah counties. Phone messages left Monday with sheriffs in Piute and Beaver counties were not immediately returned.

Kidnapping charges were filed out of Utah against Heber Jeffs in December. Authorities said at the time that he and his niece — his sister's daughter — had gone missing, apparently to keep the girl from her mother on orders issued by Warren Jeffs from prison in Texas.

Court documents say Heber Jeffs had kept the girl in his home in Kingston, Utah, since his uncle said months earlier that he received a revelation from God directing his followers to "gather" the community's women "and prepare to move to a location or locations as directed by Warren Jeffs" or his son, Helaman Jeffs.

Warren Jeffs is president of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The faith is an offshoot of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, widely known as the Mormon church, and espouses polygamy. It has historically been based in a small town that straddles the Utah-Arizona line. The mainstream church disavowed polygamy more than a century ago.

Since being found guilty on child sexual abuse charges stemming from underage marriages, Warren Jeffs has continued to serve as the group's prophet from a federal prison in Texas where he's serving a life sentence.

Prosecutors said that Heber Jeffs and his wife Sarah have cared for their niece since her parents split up when the girl was an infant. Rose Jeffs, the girl's mother who is no longer an FLDS member, was allowed regular visitation and full access to her daughter until August. At that time, Heber Jeffs told her he would no longer allow visitation. The court documents point to the revelation as a primary reason.

Court documents say Rose Jeffs then demanded to take her daughter back, at which point Heber Jeffs said he planned to cut off communication. Later, when law enforcement began pursuing Heber Jeffs, they couldn't find him at his home or places he had worked, prompting a warrant for his arrest.

Warren Jeffs was also sued in 2017 by a woman who says she was sexually abused by Jeffs when she was a child.

CBS Salt Lake City affiliate KUTV reported the woman, identified only as "R.H.," accused Jeffs and other leaders of The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints of carrying out a "calculated plan" to sexually abuse underage girls as part of "religious rituals." In 2019, Jeffs' lawyers said he had suffered a mental breakdown in prison and wasn't fit to give a deposition in the case.

In December, court documents alleged that Samuel Bateman, the leader of a small polygamous group near the Arizona-Utah border, had taken at least 20 wives. Bateman, who authorities say proclaimed himself a prophet in 2019, says he was told by Warren Jeffs to invoke the "Spirit of God on these people."


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