It's one more sordid chapter in a saga that's been playing out in Southern Utah for decades, and it comes at a time when the FLDS are facing an existential crisis.Tucked away in one of the most remote places of America, they ran Short Creek like a theocracy since the 1930s, with virtually no intrusion from outside authorities, and at their peak claimed over 10,000 members.In 2003, the Arizona Attorney General charged Black with five felony counts of sexual misconduct with two teenage sisters he'd taken as wives.
Their arrests were the culmination of an investigation that began in September, when three bodies were found about three miles from Black's compound, which is known as Rancho El Negro, or Black Ranch. In a series of raids over two days they detained over two dozen U. citizens and turned up 65 stuffed animal heads, including zebras, buffaloes, a lion and a bear, along with frozen animal carcasses.
According to Mexican news reports, the men had been shot execution style at the entrance to a trailer home. Last weekend, more than 100 Mexican law enforcement personnel descended on Black's compound, with assistance from the FBI and the U. Back in Short Creek, people who knew Black told me they never liked him much, and more or less avoided him after he became a pariah.
(Ten pleaded guilty, but Jeffs is expected to be the only one who will do jail time.
The 11th had the charges dismissed.) Technically, Short Creek consists of two communities: Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Arizona.
As a member of a polygamist Mormon splinter-sect known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or FLDS, Black had always been a rebel – even by the twisted standards of Short Creek, the dusty desert hamlet that straddles the border of Utah and Arizona at the base of soaring vermillion cliffs.
Unlike most FLDS men, known for their meek manner and Amish-like dress, Black did pretty much whatever he wanted.
Its founder, Ervil Lebaron, ordered the killing of rivals, including leaders of the FLDS and the Salt Lake City's Kingston clan, and was suspected of orchestrating the slayings of over 25 people before he died in a Utah prison in 1981.
Black was rumored to be friendly with the Le Barons (one of them lives outside Short Creek in an area known as the Cane Beds) and when Black fled to Mexico he set up shop not far from their hamlet, known as Colonia Le Baron.
By that time, he had at least three wives, two of them teenage sisters he'd married in Short Creek."The truth is this piece of shit was a pervert," Jessop says.
Black grew up in Short Creek, the oldest child of a deferential and quiet father who took orders from FLDS higher ups without question, and an enterprising mother who ran the community thrift store and taught Black a streetwise attitude that eventually put him at odds with church leadership.
He ignored the senile, lecherous prophet, took wives who didn't belong to the faith, and then claimed to be the prophet himself.