FLDS members build giant tower, only to tear it down

Published: Thursday, July 19 2012 7:20 p.m. MDT

Tower completed by FLDS members last week at the YFZ Ranch site near Eldorado, Texas.

The Eldorado Success,

ELDORADO, Texas — There's another strange and baffling twist in the saga of FLDS leader Warren Jeffs.

His followers in Texas built a huge, expensive tower over the past year, finishing it last week. Just days later, the tower is in ruins on the secluded Yearning For Zion Ranch near Eldorado.

No one has explained why members of the Utah-based Fundamentalist LDS Church built the massive tower, or why they apparently tore it down so quickly after it was completed.

"The one thing I do know," said private investigator Sam Brower, "is that they wouldn't have built it and they wouldn't have torn it down without Warren Jeffs' OK." Brower wrote a best-selling book on Jeffs called "Prophet's Prey."

When the tower was photographed last week by the Eldorado Success newspaper, it looked much like a control tower at a major airport. Estimated by the newspaper to be at least 100 feet high, the tower was capped with a fenced observation platform. Under the platform was a room with large windows allowing views in all directions.    

Judge James Doyle, a justice of the peace in nearby Eldorado, has been flying over the compound regularly for years. Wednesday, a fellow pilot told him the tower had been demolished. Doyle said he thought that couldn't be true because the tower had just been completed a few days before.

"We flew out (Thursday) morning," Doyle said, "and we made a circle and, sure enough, it was all destroyed."

Doyle's son, J.D. Doyle, who has used his camera for years to document an enormous amount of construction work on the YFZ Ranch, captured photos last August of the tower at an early stage of construction. It was a multi-story pedestal-shaped structure made of steel and concrete.

"And it was massive," Brower said. "It had, like, four-foot-thick walls on it, poured concrete walls. Everybody was trying to figure out what it was. Nobody really knew what was going on."

Construction stopped late last year and the tower remained incomplete and seemingly abandoned for many months.

About a month ago, construction resumed. Doyle thinks FLDS people worked around the clock in late June and early July. "They started working on it feverishly, got it completely finished," Brower said.

In last week's photos by the Eldorado Success, the tower appears to be complete. Doyle and Brower believe it was designed to be a watchtower, perhaps so FLDS members could keep an eye out for law enforcement.

"Sort of like an early warning system," Brower said, "in case somebody tried to raid the ranch again."

"They're paranoid that (law enforcement officers) are going to launch an attack from the outside," Doyle said. "But we really think they're more or less watching the inside (of the YFZ Ranch) to be sure that everybody is working as hard as they can work. And maybe to prevent some of the younger people from escaping."

Whatever the tower's purpose, its demolition shortly after completion has confounded and baffled outside observers.

"I mean it was a tremendous expense that they just wasted," Doyle said.

Brower said, "Their saying is that 'God and the prophet always do right.' I've got a feeling that this just was simply orders from Warren Jeffs for whatever outlandish, crazy reason."

Doyle said he's sure the tower did not simply collapse by itself. He saw heavy equipment on the grounds that he believes was used by those who live at the ranch to tear it down.

Their motives, for now, are unknown.

E-mail: hollenhorst@desnews.com

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