Police officer faces sex charges
Jury selection begins for suspect accused of bigamy, unlawful sexual conduct with minor
Photo by Associated Press
Rodney Holm and attorney Rodney Parker

Rodney Holm, left, and attorney Rodney Parker talk outside the courtroom in St. George, Utah, where jury selection in Holm's trial began Monday. Holm is charged with unlawful sexual conduct with a 16- or 17-year old and one count of bigamy.

ST. GEORGE, Utah -- Attorneys began selecting jurors from more than 80 people Monday for the trial of a polygamous police officer charged with bigamy and having sex with a minor.

Rodney Holm, 37, is accused of having sex with Ruth Stubbs when she was 16. Stubbs said she was the man's third wife.

State law bans sexual relations involving 16- and 17-year-old teenagers when their partner is 10 or more years older, unless the couple is legally married.

Police say Holm was 32 when he took Stubbs as a "spiritual" wife, which is not a legal marriage.

He is a police officer in the border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., where most of the towns' residents are members of the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

About 80 potential jurors were called to the 5th District Courthouse for the trial. That is about 25 more than usually called for local jury selection because of the high profile nature of the case, court bailiff Brett Lyman said.

Potential jurors were called one-by-one into a room along with prosecutors Kristine Knowlton and Paul Graf and Holm's defense attorneys Rod Parker and Max Wheeler.

By 5 p.m., nine potential jurors had been chosen. The court needs 19, which would allow each side to eliminate five. In the end, eight jurors and one alternate are needed for opening arguments to begin.

Ruth Stubb's sister, Pennie Stubbs Petersen, 33, of Phoenix, Ariz., waited outside the courtroom Monday.

Petersen also was raised in Hildale. She fled the community when she was 14 after being told she was to become the fifth wife of a 48-year-old man.

"It's hard. She's got a lot of pressure from where she's spent her whole life," Petersen said. "They hope she'll do the right thing and protect the town."

The charges against the Holm stemmed from a custody dispute between Holm and Stubbs.

Stubbs left the relationship, taking their two children with her. She was 8-months pregnant with their third baby at the time.

Stubbs said she married Holm in a spiritual ceremony when she was 16. During the custody hearing, Holm invoked his Fifth Amendment rights when asked about having sexual relations with Stubbs when she was a teenager.

The bigamy and illegal sex charges were filed against Holm in October. The trial on those charges is expected to last through the week.

State officials are hinting at more polygamy prosecutions in the future.

On July 24, Jeremy Kingston was arrested on a charge of incest stemming from his 1995 arranged marriage to LuAnn Kingston in Salt Lake County.

Attorney General Mark Shurtleff said that prosecution was meant to "send a message to these dictators."

"The concern is we keep hearing of evidence that young girls are being forced to marry against their will within many of these closed communities," spokesman Paul Murphy said.
Originally published Tuesday, August 12, 2003