SALT LAKE CITY — Two brothers of jailed polygamous church leader Warren Jeffs are being sought by Arizona police after allegedly evicting a leadership rival's wife who refused to renounce her husband, authorities confirmed Thursday.
Mohave County Sheriff's Sgt. Mike Hoggard in Arizona said that he is seeking to serve Alan Jeffs, 61, with a protective order, and Lyle Jeffs, 51, with an injunction against harassment.
Ruth Steed, 26, is married to William E. Jessop, who last month sought to take legal control of the Fundamentalist LDS Church from Warren Jeffs. Court records show Steed sought the court protection after her loyalties to the church were challenged and she refused to leave her husband.
Court papers said she was then told to leave her residence in Colorado City, Ariz.
"This eviction began with a requested interview by Lyle, who asked me my loyalty," Steed wrote in the April 15 petitions. "Upon my commitment to stay with my husband, an eviction was ordered by Lyle to Alan Jeffs ..."
Police reports showed Steed and her children had been living in a basement room of a home occupied by Alan Jeffs for about four months. Steed called her husband to the home when she was threatened with eviction. Jeffs then called police and had him arrested for trespassing, officers said.
The documents also said that Steed returned from the court to find all of her belongings in the yard.
The latest legal dispute comes as Warren Jeffs' southern Utah-based church appeared to be in turmoil.
Jailed since 2006, the 55-year-old sect leader is currently in west Texas awaiting trials this year on charges of bigamy and aggravated sexual assault stemming from allegations involving offenses with underage girls.
His presidency and legal authority over the church corporation were challenged by Jessop, 41, through filings with the Utah Department of Commerce. Jeffs ceded the presidency to him in a series of 2007 jailhouse calls, but later recanted.
Jeffs loyalists are fighting Jessop's move to assume the presidency — a contest that may ultimately be settled by a judge.
Meanwhile, a years-long battle for control of the faith's $114 million communal land trust is tied up in state and federal courts.
Some former church members say the mood in the twin FLDS-controlled border towns of Colorado City and Hildale, Utah, has become increasingly unstable. Some church men, including some longtime leaders, reportedly have been excommunicated and forced to abandon their wives and children.
"There's a lot of loyalty testing going on right now," said Isaac Wyler, an ex-FLDS member who lives in the community. "We keep hearing that people are getting kicked out, but women are choosing to stay with their husbands, and that's pretty big. That means people are starting to question what's going on."
At the time of William Jessop's arrest, he told police that he would leave Jeffs' home when Jessop's family is provided another home by Lyle Jeffs, the local church bishop. FLDS homes are not privately owned by residents, but are held in a communal land trust and historically were assigned to families by the bishop.
Since the Utah courts seized the trust in 2005, the legal authority to make occupancy decisions has fallen to a court-appointed accountant.