8 in sect give up, face sex charges
Husbands of minors surrender in Kingman
In another blow to Colorado City's frontier polygamist society, eight men on Monday surrendered themselves to Mohave County authorities in Kingman after being indicted during the past month on sexual misconduct charges with their underage brides.

Among those arrested were a former police officer, Rodney Holm of neighboring Hildale, Utah, who received national attention two years ago after being convicted of marrying his third wife, who was 16 at the time. Holm, 38, who served a year in county jail in Utah, also is married to the girl's older sister.

Holm was charged with three counts of sexual conduct with a minor between Dec. 1, 1998, and March 31, 1999.

Also taken into custody for their initial court appearances were Donald Robert Barlow, 48; David Romaine Bateman, 48; and Terry Darger Barlow, 23; who each were charged with sexual conduct with a minor and conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor.

Four other men - Vergel Bryce Jessop, Randolph Joseph Barlow, Dale Evans Barlow and Kelly Fischer - also were in court on Monday. The Mohave County Attorney's Office did not release the specific charges against them.

All eight men are members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a multiple-marriage sect whose members have resided for decades in an isolated area near the Arizona-Utah line in an attempt to avoid law officers in the two states.

During the past year, officials from both states have turned up the heat on the FLDS sect, which has no connection to the mainstream Mormon church.

Arizona placed a mobile building for law enforcement purposes in Colorado City, while Utah took on the task of removing the board of trustees of a communal trust, which owns most land and property in the two towns.

The leader of the sect, Warren Jeffs, is being sought by state and federal authorities. He was indicted on sexual misconduct charges last month by a county grand jury for arranging the marriage of an underage girl. When he absconded, Jeffs also was charged with one count of unlawful flight in U.S. District Court in Flagstaff.

Capturing Jeffs is considered to be a key in ending the turmoil in the two towns, where polygamist men marry one wife legally and then take on other women as so-called "spiritual" wives.

On Monday, Randolph Barlow posted $7,500 bail and the others were released on $2,500 bail, Mohave County Attorney Matthew Smith said in a prepared statement. If convicted, each of the men could serve up to two years in prison.

"Today's announcement makes the point that no community is outside the law," said Attorney General Terry Goddard, whose office worked with Mohave County in the arrests.

Goddard also praised Smith for doing an "admirable job" in following up leads and building child-abuse cases in the neighboring towns of about 6,000 people, which have closed themselves to the outside world for generations.

But the big fish, Jeffs, who has not been seen publicly for two years, remains on the loose.

When Jeffs was indicted last month, he was believed to have been at a compound near Eldorado, Texas, where a four-story temple is being constructed by the FLDS sect.

FBI officials said last week that Jeffs is believed to have been in Colorado and at another polygamist community with ties to Colorado City in British Columbia since his indictment.

"It's been a slow process of following the leader," said Gary Engels, Mohave County's lone investigator in Colorado City. "He could be hiding anywhere. But he can't run forever. At some point, he's going to have to have a face-to-face meeting with his followers to do more marriages or whatever, and we'll get him."

Engels also said that "everybody in town here is really nervous" following a show of force last Friday by law enforcement agencies from Arizona and Utah.

About 80 local residents showed up for a monthly meeting to discuss the future of the communal United Effort Plan. Jeffs and four other FLDS leaders were stripped from the board of trustees of the trust by a Utah probate judge last month in Salt Lake City, and replacements are expected to be selected at another court hearing on July 21.

During and after the meeting on Friday, six police cruisers and a helicopter monitored the town, Engels said.

An estimated 75 percent of residents of the towns remain loyal to Jeffs, and his most loyal followers have gone to Texas and to sect land near Mancos, Colo., to engage in construction projects, residents and observers of the towns have said.

In addition to the changes on the United Effort Plan board, the state of Arizona raided the Colorado City Unified School District last month and seized documents and computers in an ongoing investigation of financial mismanagement of the school district.

Jeffs' followers pulled their children at his command out of the district's schools five years ago, but school administrators loyal to the FLDS have retained their jobs.

Reach the reporter at mark.shaffer@arizonarepublic.com or (602) 444-8057.
Originally published July 12, 2005