SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah judge is set to discuss the progress of forming a board that would oversee the redistribution of about 750 homes and parcels of property in Warren Jeffs' polygamous sect on the Utah-Arizona border.
Judge Denise Lindberg has scheduled a hearing Friday morning in Salt Lake City. She's not expected to announce the board members, but rather give an update on the process.
In February, she picked 13 finalists from a field of 24.
The Utah Attorney General's Office requested the hearing to find out if Lindberg believes she has enough qualified candidates, and if so, when the board will be named, court documents show.
Lindberg has the option to keep the trust in the court's hands if she doesn't think she can find board members that can act independently and in the best interests of everyone.
The homes have been tied up in the courts since a trust that holds them was seized by Utah in 2005 over allegations of mismanagement by Jeffs and other leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Jeffs is in a Texas prison where he is a serving a life sentence for sexually assaulting underage girls he considered brides.
The state's goal has always been to return the homes and a scattering of property — worth an estimated $118 million — to community members in Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah. The creation of a board is a key step toward a resolution.
The finalists for the board are: Gregory Barlow, Jethro Barlow, Deloy Bateman, Margaret Cooke, M. Jvar Dutson, Holly Ernest, Sheleigh Harding, Thomas A. Holm, Michael Hughes, Willie Jessop, Arnold Richter, Lane Ronnow and Don Timpson.
Jessop is a well-known former bodyguard of Jeffs who has left the sect. Bateman, Cooke and Timpson have been on an advisory board of Salt Lake City accountant Bruce Wisan, who has been managing the trust.
None of the finalists are members of Jeffs' sect. That's because their jailed leader has made it clear they are not to participate.
The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is a radical offshoot of mainstream Mormonism whose members believe polygamy brings exaltation in heaven. The practice of polygamy is a legacy of the early teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but the mainstream church and its 15 million members worldwide abandoned polygamy in 1890 and strictly prohibit it today.