ST. GEORGE, Utah – A 14-year-old girl cried and was clearly troubled in the weeks preceding an arranged marriage to an older cousin, her sister testified Tuesday at a hearing involving the leader of a polygamist sect.
"She was 14," said Rebecca Musser, whose sister has a different last name. "It was just shocking and horrific. ... She didn't want to get married."
Warren Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is charged with rape as an accomplice for his alleged role in forcing the girl to marry her 19-year-old first cousin in 2001. Musser was the first witness at a hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to send Jeffs to trial.
Security at the Washington County courthouse was extraordinary, with police sharpshooters posted on the red rock hills that ring the building. No vehicles were allowed to park on the street.
Looking gaunt in a dark gray suit, Jeffs, 50, sat nearly motionless for the first few hours. He smiled at family and fellow church members in the audience.
Musser is a former member of Jeffs' church who was married to his late father. She recalled Jeffs telling her to counsel her teenage sister after the wedding at a Nevada motel.
"You need to encourage her to be happy. God has put this marriage together. You need to encourage her to be submissive and obedient," Jeffs said, according to Musser.
At the time, Utah and Arizona were cracking down on marriages involving minors. She said Jeffs warned her that "this marriage could cause us some problems."
In court documents, prosecutors say the bride, identified as Jane Doe No. 4, objected to the marriage and later begged to be released. The Associated Press does not identify victims of sexual assault.
Jeffs was arrested Aug. 28 and is being held without bail in the county jail in Purgatory, about 25 miles west of the twin towns of Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Ariz., where most of his estimated 10,000 followers live.
Jeffs' defense team has said he is being persecuted for his religious beliefs.
The church arranges marriages for young girls and believes plural marriage ensures exaltation in heaven. Jeffs assumed leadership in 2002 after the death of his father. Followers revere him as a prophet who communicates with God.
The church represents itself as a fundamentalist offshoot of the Mormon church. But the Mormons disavow any connection and renounced polygamy more than a century ago.