Colorado Town Gets Educated On Polygamist Group
An FLDS compound in Colorado
An FLDS compound in Colorado

An FLDS compound in Colorado.
Dorothy Barlow

FLDS member Dorothy Barlow.

WESTCLIFFE, Colo. (CBS4) -- What does a town do when it discovers a controversial polygamist group has bought several properties and moved in some of its members?

That's what has happened around Westcliffe in southern Colorado.

CBS4's Rick Sallinger traveled to Westcliffe to find out and became the first TV reporter allowed inside one of the compounds of the polygamist group in Colorado.

Rick reported that the town of Westcliffe was caught by surprise. They suddenly learned those living there were members of the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints (FLDS). The FLDS Church is known for its practice of polygamy.

Dorothy Barlow is one of the FLDS ladies Sallinger spoke with inside the compound.

"Did you live in a plural marriage?" Sallinger asked. "Yes, I did. I loved it. I had no regrets," Barlow replied.

The presence of the polygamist group has caused a lot of talk around Westcliffe, about 2 1/2 hours south of Denver.

"I don't think we need to have polygamists here," one woman playing cards told CBS4.

Another woman was asked, "How do you feel about their presence?" Well polygamy is against the law," she answered.

One neighbor wrote a letter to the zoning board complaining "barracks" were being built.

A real estate agent added, "We need to consider the effect on our property values."

That led to a visit by Custer County Sheriff Fred Jobe. He explained why he came with a search warrant.

"The zoning officer felt intimidated going out there and she had some past experience with her and felt they were trying to intimidate her," Jobe said.

With the images of the April raid on the FLDS compound in Texas still fresh in church members' minds, the sheriff's visit in Westcliffe sent shivers down some spines.

Rose Jessop is one of the FLDS women living in the compound.

"Were you afraid when they searched?" CBS4 asked Jessop. "Yes they sent trembles. I don't trust them because of the Texas raid and all the injustice," she replied.

What the people of Westcliffe did next was form a group to learn more about their new neighbors' controversial practices and what to do if one of them wanted to leave.

John Leavitt is one of the organizers of the group Step Up.

"I know this group has a horrible history of things that went on in Arizona and Utah. All that is public record, it's not speculation, or persecution of religion," Leavitt said.

More than 200 people showed up for the initial meeting. Speakers have been brought in from Utah and Denver .

Stephen Singular is the author of a book about the FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs.

"These people looked at that and said, 'Okay they are moving into our community. They bought five or six properties. We don't know how many people are out there. We need to educate ourselves about this," Singular said.

One person not invited to speak was Lee Steed, the FLDS member who bought the Westcliffe area properties.

"To present something of value, I would be interested, but to stake me on a stage and throw tomatoes at me, I'm not too interested in that," Steed said.

Steed insists the FLDS is not moving in large numbers to Colorado. Nevertheless, a welcome wagon hasn't exactly shown up at their door.

What has not taken place so far is a dialogue between the FLDS and the townspeople.

Many of the people in the Westcliffe and Silvercliffe area say they have no objection to the presence of the FLDS members in their community.
Originally broadcast November 11, 2008