Trial of next Colo. City man is set for Tuesday

KINGMAN - Colorado City's Donald Barlow is likely to go to trial on Tuesday in Mohave County Superior Court unless a plea agreement can be reached by both attorneys today.

Barlow, 43, reported to be a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is charged with two felony counts: sexual conduct with a minor and conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor.

Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith initiated a call to defense attorney Bruce Griffen, who represents all eight Colorado City men charged with similar felonies, on Wednesday, but no agreement was worked out, Smith said.

Both attorneys talked on the phone again Thursday, with no results. While there is still time before Tuesday to work out an agreement, Smith said he believes that both sides prefer to go to trial.

Barlow is charged with having sex with a miner, Laree Steed, when she was 16 years old. Steed is believed to be Barlow's "celestial wife" in a plural marriage. FLDS members believe their religious practice requires plural marriages.

As in the trial against Kelly Fischer, the first of eight Colorado City men charged, the state will present birth and marriage certificates of Barlow and Steed to prove illegal sexual conduct, Smith said. That evidence was well received by the jury in Fischer's case as convincing and led to a guilty verdict.

As in the case against Fischer, Smith will call county special investigator to Colorado City Gary Engles to testify, who will share his findings from a months-long investigation.

Another witness, Richard Holm, who lived in Colorado City for decades and was an FLDS member until he was kicked out of the church in 2003 by leader Warren Jeffs, is expected to testify again. Before he left the church, Holm had three wives and nine children.

Several jury members from Fischer's trial told the Miner that Holm's testimony on the polygamist culture and plural marriages seemed trustworthy.

The county also subpoenaed Steed, the victim; Nancy Johnson, Barlow's legal wife; and several others from Colorado City to testify in court, but Smith said he did not expect them to show up given the fact that no subpoenaed witnesses appeared at Fischer's trial.

Superior Court Judge Steven Conn told both attorneys during the sentencing of Fischer that he would treat the eight Colorado City cases strictly based on the evidence presented to the court although the cases fall into similar patterns.

Conn insisted that there was no reason to think the next Colorado City case would receive the same verdict from the jury or similar sentencing from him.

Smith admitted there is no such thing as winning patterns considering the nature of jury trials.

One of the key factors in a jury trial is the reading of the case by jury members.

Even with similar evidence and procedures, a different jury might reach a different conclusion, Smith said.

So before a final verdict is reached, no one can reasonably predict the result, Smith said.

Defense Attorney Griffen said after Fischer's trial on Aug. 2 that he treated the judge's words seriously and would explore in which aspects he could improve his arguments in subsequent Colorado City cases.

He did not rule out the possibility of reaching agreements with Smith on the rest of the cases, but he said he preferred to keep all options open.