Nationwide Manhunt for Warren Jeffs

This is a partial transcript from "On the Record," May 8, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: He may have 70 wives. A nationwide manhunt for polygamist leader Warren Jeffs. He is now a member of that elite group — that includes Usama bin Laden — the FBI's 10 Most Wanted Fugitives.

Joining us by phone from Arizona is Mohave County sheriff Tom Sheahan. Welcome, Sheriff.


VAN SUSTEREN: Sheriff, what is Mr. Warren Jeffs charged with?

SHEAHAN: Well, in Mohave County charges, he has multiple counts of sexual conduct with a minor and conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor, all Class 6 felonies. And bond is set at $500,000.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Those charges, are they from last summer, sir?

SHEAHAN: Yes. Those are the charges that are from last... the grand jury indictment.

VAN SUSTEREN: Have you seen him, or has anyone in the sheriff's department or anyone you know of seen him since last summer, when these charges came down?

SHEAHAN: No, he's been gone for quite a long period of time. In fact, that's why I solicited help from the state and the FBI to try to locate this individual because he is known to travel between Arizona, Colorado, Texas, South Dakota, even Mexico and Canada. So it's very important that we can locate this individual.

VAN SUSTEREN: Are you certain he's alive?

SHEAHAN: As far as we know, he probably is. We haven't heard anything that would lead us to believe that he is deceased. But his followers are very supportive of him, and they don't really want to give out much information. So I believe the help with the increasing the reward will be a big help to our investigation.

VAN SUSTEREN: Where was he last seen, last known to be seen?

SHEAHAN: Well, the last time he was seen, you know, in public, was in the Hildale, Utah, Colorado City, Arizona, quite a while back. And nobody's seen him. There have been many reports and false sightings, but all the leads have checked out, and nobody is really verifying where he has been. So he's really laying low in his underground network of persons that are harboring him.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you know if he knows that there is a warrant out for him?

SHEAHAN: Oh, no doubt. In fact, there are also eight of his followers were indicted last year, too, for similar charges. So it's well known throughout his contacts and his community that he is wanted. So we have no doubt that he is in hiding.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why did you bring the FBI in, simply because you haven't been able to catch him since last summer, when he was indicted?

SHEAHAN: Well, we don't believe he's been around the area since then. We believe he is traveling throughout the United States and possibly outside the United States. And naturally, with a person like this, it's best to have as many resources as possible to try to locate the individual and have more contacts, more information available, more likely we are to apprehend him at one time.

VAN SUSTEREN: You said that he may have been outside the United States. Any idea where?

SHEAHAN: No. We've heard down in Mexico a couple places, possibly in Mexico, and British Columbia, up in Canada. So you know, a lot of information. Not a lot of it has been very good or has panned out to be truthful so far. But as I said, we're trying to follow every lead, and the FBI has been working very closely with us.

VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you, Sheriff. And good luck, sir.

Joining us live in Salt Lake City is Ben Winslow, a crime reporter for The Deseret News. Welcome, Ben.

BEN WINSLOW, DESERET NEWS: Thank you for having me.

VAN SUSTEREN: Ben, you have ever met this man?

WINSLOW: I have not had the privilege of meeting Warren Jeffs yet. I have known some of the people who have been married to his father. I've known several people who have been followers, who have been ex-followers. But I have not met Warren Jeffs yet.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. There seem to be two categories of crimes for which he's being sought. One is polygamy, having more than one wife, and the other is sex with children-related accusations. What are those accusations specifically, if you know?

WINSLOW: The accusations — there's two sets of them. There's a series of indictments that were handed down in Mohave County, Arizona, which is just on the side of the border, of the Utah border. And that basically accuses Warren Jeffs of arranging child bride marriages, forcing teenage girls into polygamist marriages with older men.

The charges that were handed down just last month in Utah, the Washington County attorneys charged him with rape as an accomplice. And basically, it says that he forced a young woman into a polygamist marriage. She's known in the court documents only as Jane Doe 4. She was forced into a polygamist marriage with an older man. She was told it was God's will. When she objected, she went back to him, she said, I don't want to be married to him, and he threatened her basically with damnation, her soul in hell if she refused.

She stayed. She finally got out, went to Washington County authorities, and they finally have enough evidence that they've leveled these charges against him. All of the charges are basically accusing him of facilitating polygamist marriages, forcing young women into polygamist marriages.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Now, so that we're perfectly clear for the viewers, in case they don't know, this is not part of the Mormon church, isn't that right...


WINSLOW: No, this is completely different group. This is a breakaway religion. They still believe in Joseph Smith, who is the founder of the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, but this is definitely the mainstream Mormon Church. This is a breakaway religion.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. How many followers does he have, estimated?

WINSLOW: It's estimated as high as 12,000 in the polygamist border towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona. But it's now believed to be somewhere between 6,000 and 8,000 people.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. And those 6,000 to 8,000 people, are they generally, if can you say that, solidly behind their leader, and do they think that this is a form of, you know, persecution, or do they think that he should be called to task on this?

WINSLOW: It depends on who you ask. A lot of people are still blindly obedient to him. They have been funneling money to him. They have been funneling pre-paid phone cards, pre-paid cell phones. When his brother was arrested last year in Colorado, inside the car was $142,000 in cash. There was also a jar, actually, with Jeffs's FBI wanted poster picture on it, and a label that said, Pennies for the prophet. So there are a lot of people who are still devoted to him and willing to do whatever it takes to keep him on the run because they believe he is the prophet and the mouthpiece of God.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Ben. Thank you.

Joining us on the phone from Arizona is Isaac Wyler, a former follower of Warren Jeffs. Welcome, Isaac.


VAN SUSTEREN: Very well. So Isaac, how long did you know Warren Jeffs, or how long have you known him?

WYLER: Well, I grew up here, and so I knew of him most of my life, though he was up in Salt Lake City.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. So about how much time you have spent with him?

WYLER: He come down in about 1998, down here in Colorado City, and was helping his father, who was the prophet at the time that I followed.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did you know him well enough so that he would say, "Hi, Isaac," when he saw you, or were you...

WYLER: Oh, yes. He knew me that well.

VAN SUSTEREN: He did or did not? I'm sorry. I didn't hear.

WYLER: Yes, he did.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Now, you were excommunicated in 2004, is that right?

WYLER: Yes, January 10, 2004. I was one of 21 men that got kicked out the same day, including four of his brothers, as well as four of the main leaders in town.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you know why you were kicked out?

WYLER: He wouldn't tell us. He just told us that we had committed sins and that we was to leave our wives and children and family and everything and our businesses and everything, just leave town and go. And he says write down a list of the sins that we had ever committed in our lives, and write that — or send those sins back to him, and he'd compare it to the list that God gave him, and if they were the same, then I guess he was going to — we'd have the opportunity to be invited back.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Now, did you leave your wife and leave the religion?

WYLER: No. I told him I wasn't going to go, and my wife told him that she wasn't going to go. And that lasted for about a year. Then pressure got to the point that she moved to a different community and left me.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. And, I take it, in the beginning, that you liked him?

WYLER: No, not him. I liked his father. I followed his father. When he proclaimed himself prophet, none of it made any sense. I mean, it was so bad at one point there that right during the funeral, I mean, he had a picture of his father there, sitting next to him, and said he was still there in the other room, guiding everything. I mean, it was really bizarre.

VAN SUSTEREN: What's he like?

WYLER: Warren? Well, he's tall and he's skinny. And he's got the kind of a monotone voice that'll just mesmerize you.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why do people follow him?

WYLER: They follow him because — I don't know. That's a hard question to answer, why they follow him. A lot of times, it doesn't even make any sense. I guess the only way that I could say is — is we felt like we were fundamentalist Mormons, and from way back 180 years ago, we've been taught obedience, obedience to the prophet, you know, to an infallible prophet. And when Prophet Rulon Jeffs died, then — he had said that he was going to live for the next 350 years, and people believed him. By then, I was pretty well aware that things were definitely off-kilter which is probably why I got kicked out, maybe, asking questions.

VAN SUSTEREN: Any idea where he is?

WYLER: He was here three weeks ago. He came in in the night, made quick marriages and took off again in the next. He spends very little time here. Every once in a while, he'll swing through. He's on the road most of the time.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Isaac. Thank you, sir.

WYLER: All righty.

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