FBI most-wanted fugitive, polygamist Warren Jeffs, arrested

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Warren Jeffs, the fugitive leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) has been arrested in Nevada.

Around 9 p.m. local time, he was arrested on Interstate 15 in Clark County, Nevada, north of Las Vegas, during a routine traffic stop when he was recognized by a local officer. He was found to be carrying computers, 15 cell phones, disguises (3 wigs), and a total of more than $54,000 in cash with him in the vehicle.

Jeffs' red 2007 Cadillac Escalade was pulled over because the vehicle's temporary plates from Colorado were not visible. No weapons were found in the car or at the scene. Naomi Jeffs, one of Jeffs' wives, and Isaac Steve Jeffs, his brother, were both in the vehicle and detained for questioning. Both were released and not charged with any crime.

When questioned separately, Warren Jeffs and his brother gave inconsistent responses when asked where they were going, Warren saying Denver, and his brother saying Utah. In addition, the officer responsible for the arrest, Eddie Duchover, stated that when initially pulling the car over, Jeffs would not make eye contact, and nervously ate a salad. The officer also cited Jeffs' throbbing carotid artery as an indication that he had done something big.

Jeffs, a recluse, was indicted last June on a sexual misconduct charge in Arizona; prosecutors allege he arranged marriages for under-age girls and older men. Reclusive for over a year, the FBI placed him on its 10 most wanted fugitives list. A $100,000 reward was offered for information leading to his capture. He now faces new charges of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

It is not yet clear where Jeffs will be tried, though currently he is being held in Clark County jail (Las Vegas) pending a court hearing for the latest charge. He may be extradited to Arizona to face the additional charges there.

The FLDS is a separatist movement that split off from the Mormon church more than a century ago due to the latter's changed views on polygamy. FLDS members (estimated at ten thousand) believe that a man must marry at least three times to enter heaven after death. The sect is based in Colorado City, Arizona and Hildale, Utah (although there are other compounds in other parts of America).

Jeffs became leader of the group in 2002 after the death of the former leader, his father Rulon Jeffs.