Polygamy alive and well in Arizona

Tonight, the journalist responsible for casting a national spotlight on polygamist Warren Jeffs says the practice is alive and well in the state of Arizona, and the man with 78 wives is still calling the shots in prison.

Author Betty Webb will present “Polygamy in Arizona” as part of the spring 2014 Humanities Lecture Series at ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus. Hosted by the School of Letters and Sciences, the lecture starts at 6:30 p.m., March 20 at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Room 128, 555 N. Central Ave., Phoenix.

The lecture series, now in its sixth year, is open to the general public and is free. The theme for this year’s series is titled “The Human Condition.” In addition to polygamy, subjects explored this semester include the legalization of marijuana, race and human sex trafficking.

Betty Webb was a hard-bitten, tough-as-nails reporter with the East Valley Tribune when she decided to write full-time as an author. Her two prize-winning mystery series – the Lena Jones books and the Gun Zoo series – offer a fully-realized picture of Arizona, from barrios to mountaintop mansions.

Her second book, “Desert Wives,” was reviewed by the New York Times, became a national best-seller and shed light on the ritualistic sexual abuse and widespread welfare fraud committed by Warren Jeffs, the ecclesiastical head of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints in Colorado City, Ariz.

Money talks, according to Webb.

“The sexual abuse of little girls wasn’t going to make a bit of difference to officials, but I knew if I followed the money trail, then people would feel very differently about polygamy, and that’s exactly what happened,” Webb said. “Officials started to look into Warren Jeffs and welfare fraud, and that’s what ultimately brought him down.”

Webb said that during her research in Colorado City, she was followed by local authorities and chased off at gunpoint. Later, when her book came out, she received several death threats and was intimidated by male members of the sect at several book signings.

“I had three polygamist men come to my first few signings in Phoenix, and they would sit in the front row and cross their arms and scowl,” Webb said. “Then they’d follow me out to the car and try to intimidate me. That all stopped when I introduced them to the audience and told them to stand up. They got up and left, and I never saw them again.”

Despite the fact that Jeffs was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison in 2007, Webb says he still calls the shots from behind bars.

“Jeffs is allowed a telephone in prison and he delivers his sermons via speakerphone and everybody listens to him in a meeting hall in Colorado City,” Webb said. “He is their Lord and master, and they still follow him.”

Webb will follow the lecture with a signing of “Desert Wives” and a few others from her Lena Jones series.

The lecture series will conclude on April 17 with Dominiqe Roe-Sepowitz’s presentation of “Human Sex Trafficking in Arizona.”

By Marshall Terrill

8 Comments

  1. 78 wives – that is a lot of ‘honey do’s’ – perhaps a guy enjoying prison – doesn’t miss the golf game he never had….

  2. Why is he allowed a telephone in prison, while others are only allowed a phone call from prison.

  3. Back in the mid-1960’s, Mr. Petri, my American History teacher at Townsend Jr. High School, talked about a polygamist couple he knew, only two wives and one husband. Yes, polygamy is alive and well in AZ, but not just among the Fundamentalist LDS Church members. There are a number of Muslim refugees, mostly from Africa, in this town and throughout the US who have several wives and a passel of children, ALL of them living off the dole of the American taxpayer by using EBT cards, food stamps, Section 8 housing, the benefits of the Community Food Bank, state-funded medical care, all of the Big Brother benefits which they can collect. Their children go to school with the latest phones, tablets, (you know, the ones they AREN’T suppose to use in the classroom, but do anyway!), etc., while the teachers can only afford the lowest possible phone plan from Walmart! As long as the government pays for such benefits, polygamy, although illegal throughout the US, is going to thrive and the American taxpayer who obeys the law will be paying the bill for the polygamists’ lifestyle. It’s time to enforce the law against it and all abuses of the welfare system, send the abusers to jail or deport them back to their countries of origin, NOW!

  4. so Veronica – what I hear you saying is “if you can afford this yourself – no one else has to pay for it – have as many wives as you’d like or can afford” ; which is an interesting idea.

  5. There is no such thing as having more than one “wife”. There is one wife and a a whole lot of cohabitating partners. This is how they get around the laws. The men can call these women their “wives” all they want but there is no marriage certificate. There are no longer laws banning cohabitation. Utah’s anti-cohabitation law was just deemed unconstitutional. So these women are just reproducing with the same man and collecting welfare. There is really nothing that can be done because having children out of wedlock and cohabitation are socially acceptable.

  6. BillyB, what I was saying is that there are many, many refugees being allowed into the US, who have two or more wives, if not when they arrive, another wife is “chosen” shortly thereafter. They refer to them as their “sisters,’ but the are not sisters, but rather the man’s second wife. Both wives apply for all of the governmental benefits for themselves and their children and in many cases, the husband sits about not even attempting to learn English, a wage-earning skill, but his wives pump out one kid after another. We, the taxpayers, are paying for them to live on the dole. These refugee polygamists need to be rooted out and deported, along with their multiple wives and kids.

  7. Perhaps Jeffs should consult Commandment #2?
    “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

  8. Fight abuse, not consensual adult relationships. There is no good reason to deny that we must keep evolving until an adult, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, monogamy or polyamory, race, or religion is free to marry any and all consenting adults. The limited same-gender freedom to marry is a great and historic step, but is NOT full marriage equality, because equality “just for some” is not equality. Let’s stand up for EVERY ADULT’S right to marry the person(s) they love. Get on the right side of history!

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