Beware of FLDS enforcers, Texas told

Published: Wednesday, June 11 2008 12:00 a.m. MDT

Texas police have been standing guard outside the home of the Texas judge who ordered the removal of all the FLDS children from the YFZ Ranch.

The heightened security was ordered after authorities from Utah and Arizona warned them to be on the lookout for FLDS "enforcers," the Deseret News has learned.

Every officer guarding Judge Barbara Walther's San Angelo house was provided dossiers and photos of 16 FLDS men and women whom Utah police deemed a threat. However, e-mails obtained by the Deseret News from the Washington County Sheriff's Office warned Texas authorities to be suspicious of everybody, not just those on the list.

"There are many individuals who are willing to give up their life for the cause and you can never underestimate what a religious fanatic is capable of," according to the e-mails, which were obtained through Texas' public records law.

Police were also keeping close tabs on witnesses, as the "enforcers" might try to "intimidate kids and other witnesses, watch foster homes where kids may be placed, bribe witnesses, appear at court hearings, and make attempts to contact FLDS kids," according to an e-mail from an investigator with the Tom Green County District Attorney's Office.

Law enforcement in Texas has been on alert since a Fundamentalist LDS Church-related Web site published Walther's home address and work and home telephone numbers.

Walther signed the original order to remove all of the FLDS children from the YFZ Ranch in April and place them in state custody.

An attorney for the FLDS Church said its followers are peaceful people and that law enforcement has nothing to worry about.

"Have they ever seen an act of intimidation or violence against law enforcement from the FLDS community at all, ever?" Rod Parker told the Deseret News. "Before they start spreading those kinds of rumors, they ought to be able to ID an example of them ever doing that in the past."

As for the threat to "pay Ms. Walther's home a visit," on the site www.flds.ws, Parker said the site is not sanctioned by the FLDS Church. The site is run by Bill Medvecky, a Fort Myers, Fla., man who has donated to the fund for captive FLDS children, Parker said.

Once Parker told church leaders that the post could be construed as a threat, they contacted Medvecky and had him remove the judge's address, he said.

However, Walther's work and phone numbers are still listed on the Web site. The site calls Walther the "leader of the Gestapo," and includes a link to a petition to impeach the judge.

Medvecky doesn't see the harm in publishing Walther's address on the Internet. After all, it's in the phone book, he said.

"They are not confrontational whatsoever. I am," Medvecky told the Deseret News. "They are not me, and they have nothing to do with the site. We support them 100 percent."

Texas law enforcement wasn't aware of the threat until early June, but the dossiers "regarding any FLDS members who may engage in acts of intimidation or violence against law enforcement and/or potential witnesses" started circulating April 16.

The dossiers track individuals in FLDS leader Warren Jeffs' circle of trust, as well as a few "wild cards" that make Utah authorities "uncomfortable."

The list includes Willie Jessop, who has acted as one of the main spokesmen for the FLDS Church after the April 3 raid on the Yearning For Zion Ranch. The dossier calls him — William Roy Jessop — "the most serious threat associated with the FLDS religion."

Others included on the list are Lyle Steed Jeffs, Warren Jeffs' brother; and Lindsay Hammon Barlow, who witnesses described as Warren Jeffs' "muscle," among others.

Try out the new DeseretNews.com design!
try beta learn more
Get The Deseret News Everywhere