Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson and anti-polygamy activist Flora Jessop met with people of Eldorado, Texas, on Thursday after learning that members of the polygamous community of Colorado City may be building a compound in the small Texas town.
Residents of Eldorado (pronounced with a long 'a') turned out en mass for a press conference in which Johnson, Jessop and Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran tried to calm residents' fears.
"They are terrified to have what they consider a 'cult' move into their town of just 3,000 residents," Jessop said.
"A few townspeople carried signs, including one that read, 'The devil is here.' "
Jessop said citizens of Eldorado, located 90 miles north of the Mexican border, "are very sensitive in Texas because of what happened with Waco."
Waco, Texas, gained infamy in 1993 when a fiery showdown between cult leader David Koresh and FBI agents at the Mount Carmel compound ended a 51-day siege that began with an attempt to arrest Koresh on weapons charges.
See ELDORADO, Page 2
Koresh and other cult members, including 17 children and four government agents, were killed, and 16 agents were wounded when the compound caught on fire.
Johnson said members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS) in the Colorado City-Hildale, Utah, area have been building a compound about three miles from downtown Eldorado.
Eldorado is the only city within Schleicher County.
Aerial photographs show that three houses, each 8,000 to 10,000 square feet, have been built.
It has been verified that the homes are for FLDS leaders Warren Jeffs and David Allred, Jessop said.
Born into a polygamous family in Colorado City, Jessop has 28 brothers and sisters.
She said she was sexually abused by her father and forced to marry before escaping at the age of 16.
She now helps teenaged girls escape from the polygamist lifestyle through Help the Child Brides, a Phoenix organization.
Arizona and Utah officials have taken a much-closer look at activities within the mostly closed communities of Colorado City and Hildale during the past year.
Prosecutors have been investigating allegations of incest, child-abuse, forced marriages of teenaged girls to much older men, and welfare and tax fraud.
Jessop said Eldorado townspeople don't want polygamists taking over their town.
"They are afraid for their children and how this is going to impact their community," she said.
Doran and bestselling author Jon Krakauer, who wrote "Under the Banner of Heaven," a book about polygamy in which Jessop is profiled, spoke at the news conference held at noon Thursday in front of the Schleicher County Sheriff's Office in Eldorado.
Jessop was contacted by a concerned Eldorado citizen after he saw her profiled on the ABC television program Primetime Live.
The segment was filmed in Colorado City and aired March 4, said Jay Beswick of Help the Child Brides.
Beswick said the man asked Jessop whether Colorado City polygamists might be moving to Texas.
"Flora checked this lead out and discovered that, indeed, the names and business entities closely match names and business entities known to be polygamists with close ties to Warren Jeffs, the new fanatic paranoid leader of the largest polygamist 'church' in the U.S.," Beswick stated in a press release.
Warren Jeffs reputedly has taken as many as 50 wives, many of them under the legal age of consent.
David Steed Allred, using the name Dave's Builders, of St George, Utah, is known to be closely associated with Warren Jeffs.
Allred told curious Eldorado townspeople that he was building a corporate hunting retreat on the 1,371-acre compound, Beswick stated.
Rumors are circulating since several people have flown over the site and viewed the large building projects that appeared to go up almost overnight.
Entry to the site is prohibited by a locked gate, Beswick said.
In a press release from Beswick, Doran is quoted as saying: "I know that Ms.
Jessop is committed to her cause, and I applaud her for it.
But at this time I am not aware of any connection between the Fundamentalist Latter-day Saints and the buildings that are being built north of town.
I take this very seriously, but at the same time, we have to understand that the people working out there and those who may soon be living out there have rights, too."
Beswick said the sheriff told people of Schleicher County to "give this thing some time and let us do our job.
If there's a need for law enforcement to step in, we won't hesitate to do so.
But until then, I hope cooler heads will prevail."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.