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Polygamists May Have Settled Near Custer

March 9, 2006, 3:55 PM by Jodi Schwan

Photo Courtesy: Sam Brower & Jon Krakauer
Photo Courtesy: Sam Brower & Jon Krakauer

Followers of the nation's largest polygamist sect may be living in South Dakota.

Their leader is accused of child rape and wanted for fleeing from prosecution. And he could be hiding in the state.

Investigators discovered a 100 acre site 15 miles southwest of Pringle, in Custer county.

They believe it's home to a group connected to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, led by Warren Jeffs.

The above photo is of the property near Pringle. There are several buildings, one reportedly has as many as 21 bedrooms. The picture was taken by Private Investigator Sam Brower, who visited South Dakota earlier this year and says he knew right away he was looking at a polygamist compound.

The people building the settlement south of Custer probably didn't want anyone to find it. Investigators believe it was meant to be a secret hideout for Warren Jeffs, the leader of a polygamous sect whose followers consider him a prophet.

Sam Brower says, "I think it was significant. I think if the heat came down on Warren Jeffs that would be the place he ran to."

Jeffs leads a group called the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints, which broke off from the mainstream Mormon church when Utah denounced polygamy in 1890. The group has also settled in Arizona and is building a temple in Texas. Men have multiple wives and girls are often married in their teens. Brower says he noticed many women and children at the South Dakota site.

Brower says, "Same dress, same manner of speech. After a while just hearing them talk was a sure sign for me."

Brower photographed several buildings in South Dakota and says work on them went on around the clock. He believes Jeffs used the area to hide.

He says, "Certainly a place Warren Jeffs probably performed marriage ceremonies. He could do it secretly without anyone knowing about it."

Brower says most church members are honest, hard-working people. But he says Jeffs has turned them into slaves, which makes him very hard to track down.

Brower says, "He has about 10,000 people brought up in a religion that would consider it an honor and privilege to hide him, to give him their cars and homes, their wives, their children, to take a bullet and die and kill for him if the need arose."

Browers believes that because the site near Pringle has been discovered, activity will probably slow down there.

But he thinks Jeffs will still use the area for something.

The Rapid City FBI office is aware of the property and will be following up on any leads. Jeffs is wanted by the FBI in Phoenix.

For more information on Jeffs, click here.

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