|Teen girl runs from Colorado City|
By Angie Parkinson|
ST. GEORGE — A Colorado City teen-age girl left her home, in part, to avoid an arranged marriage. The 15-year-old said she decided at age of 14 that she did not want to stay in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS). She said she was being groomed to become a wife to Warren Jeffs, high-ranking FLDS official and son of FLDS prophet Rulon Jeffs.
The teen was on vacation in Salt Lake City last week when her father called to say her brother would be picking her up. She did not want to return to Colorado City and decided to stay with a cousin in Salt Lake City, beginning Saturday.
Her cousin contacted Hurricane resident Jay Beswick, an advocate with the child abuse prevention organization For Kids Sake, and St. George resident Les Zitting, who is trying to start a support group for those who want to leave the FLDS church. Zitting — who is also the girl’s great uncle — and Beswick met the teen and her cousin in Fillmore. The teen stayed at Beswick’s and then Zitting’s home from Monday until Wednesday.
Zitting contacted the police Wednesday after he received a threatening phone call. In the phone call a male voice tells a number of jokes and makes some bizarre statements.
“They show you how detergent can take blood stains out,” said the caller at one point. “I think you’ve got a T-shirt with blood stains all over it. Maybe your laundry isn’t the biggest problem.”
Zitting recorded the phone call and plans to press charges.
Zitting believes the call is a response to his efforts to aid people leaving the FLDS church. Washington County Deputy Sheriff Kurt Wright took the report on the threatening call Wednesday afternoon. Zitting also told him the girl was staying in his home.
Wright arranged a meeting with Zitting, the teen, the teen’s parents, and Washington County Sheriff Kirk Smith to discuss the teen’s best interests. The parents agreed to let the girl stay out of Colorado City, but prefer not to have her live in St. George. The girl will live with an uncle in another state who has also left the FLDS church.
The teen said she was called out of class from her second to sixth grade years on weekly basis to meet with Jeffs. They discussed issues unrelated to marriage, but she said she felt she was being singled out as a wife for Jeffs. None of the other girls were asked to similar conferences, she said. She stopped going to school after sixth grade and said the meetings stopped for a time but started again this year. Their last meeting was four months ago.
The teen also said her living conditions were unsatisfactory in Colorado City. More than 20 people live in her family’s home. The home has three bedrooms.
Beswick said he is unhappy with the decision to send the girl to her relative in another state, saying she will inevitably end up back in Colorado City. Beswick believes the Colorado City community is unsafe for children because it allows underage marriages.
But Smith and Wright said because the girl is a minor, the parents have the right to decide where their daughter lives.
Originally published April 1, 2001
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