SALT LAKE CITY – Prosecutors believe saliva samples, birth records and marriage certificates could prove allegations that some Colorado City, Ariz., men entered polygamous unions with young girls and then fathered their children, court documents show.
Eight Colorado City men were indicted last summer on charges of conspiracy and sexual conduct with a minor, both felonies that can carry penalties of up to two years in prison.
Search warrants served May 24 on the homes of four of the men sought to obtain saliva samples for DNA testing from the men and their families that would "establish the paternity and maternity of the child and would tend to prove the existence of a sexual relationship between the [women] and the defendant," probable cause statements say.
It is unknown if police, who served the warrants simultaneously on the homes of Dale Barlow, Donald Barlow, David Batemen and Vergel Jessop, obtained the DNA samples needed.
Telephone calls from The Associated Press seeking comment from Mohave County Attorney Matthew Smith and Sheriff Tom Sheahan, whose officers served the warrants, were not immediately returned.
Attorney Bruce Griffen, the defense lawyer listed in court documents for all eight men, also did not return messages from the AP.
The eight men are believed to be members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a sect that believes plural marriage guarantees their salvation in heaven. Most members of the FLDS church make their home in Colorado City or its sister city of Hildale, Utah, just across the state border.
The FLDS church has come under increasing scrutiny over the past few years for its practice of marrying teenage girls to much older men, the frequency of which reportedly escalated when Warren Jeffs took the reins of the church in 2002.
Former Utah police officer and FLDS member Rodney Holm served a year in jail for his 2003 conviction for bigamy and unlawful sexual conduct with a minor after entering into a "spiritual marriage" with Ruth Stubbs in 1988. Holm was then 32 and Stubbs was 16. They had two children. Holm is among the eight facing the Arizona charges.
Jeffs, 50, is wanted on criminal charges in Utah and Arizona for arranging the underage unions. He has been named to the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list and is considered armed and dangerous.
Court documents filed in connection with the May 24 warrants include lists of items taken from each of the four homes. Among the items secured by police were family pictures, bills, genealogical records, tax returns, bank statements and personal journals.
Trials for all eight men are scheduled to begin next week and continue into the fall.
No warrants have been served on Holm or the three others charged — Randolph Barlow, Terry Barlow and Kelly Fischer.
Dale Barlow, 47, is scheduled for the first trial June 13. In all instances, the charges allege the men entered in to spiritual marriages with girls between the ages of 15 and 17. In Arizona, it is illegal to engage in sexual activity with anyone under the age of 18.