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Authorities help woman leave Utah polygamous sect

By Jennifer Dobner

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 12 2011 11:45 a.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah authorities have helped a woman leave a polygamous community run by jailed sect leader Warren Jeffs along the Utah-Arizona border.

Media outlets including the Salt Lake Tribune report the woman was one of his nearly 70 wives. The Associated Press could not immediately confirm her identity and Washington County sheriff's Det. Nate Abbott said he did not know whether the woman was married to Jeffs.

The 25-year-old woman sought assistance from police on Monday after leaving a home in Colorado City, Ariz., Abbott said. The woman sought help at the Hildale, Utah residence of Willie Jessop, a former church spokesman who no longer follows Jeffs.

Jessop told The Associated Press that he contacted authorities on the woman's behalf, but declined to provide other details about the incident.

"She came to me under duress for some help," he said Wednesday. "We've got her help. She's deciding what she wants to do and how we can help facilitate that. One hundred percent of the focus now is on whatever is in her best interests."

The woman was reportedly taken to a shelter.

Colorado City and its sister community of Hildale are the home base of Jeffs' Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

The 55-year-old is serving a life sentence in Texas for child sexual assault convictions.

Officers from both the Washington County Sheriff's Office and the Colorado City Town Marshal's office both responded to the "keep the peace" call, but there "was no confrontation," Abbott said.

Authorities did not release the woman's name.

Abbott referred other questions to Washington County Attorney Brock Belnap, whose office is investigating the incident.

A message left for Belnap was not immediately returned Wednesday.

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