PRINGLE, S.D. (KELO) — A little over a year ago, in February 2021, Andrew Chatwin, Patrick Pipkin and Claude Seth Cooke purchased a compound in the southern Black Hills near Pringle at a sheriff’s auction for $750,000.
The compound had been occupied by members of the secretive polygamous sect of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints, a fringe offshoot of the Mormon religion. Chatwin, Pipkin and Cooke themselves were former members of the church.
Now, the trio is opting to sell the property on the open market, where it is listed for $6,900,000.
According to the listing, there are 77 bedrooms and 74 baths housed within 6 log structures on the property, which is surrounded by a perimeter fence and includes a watchtower.
KELOLAND News spoke Thursday with Eric Lewis with Lewis Realty, who confirmed that their company is listing the property, which is currently on hold before going on the market.
Lewis would not comment on the reason that Chatwin, Pipkin and Cooke have decided to sell the property, but did note that at this time they hope to sell it as one large unit with the exception of the cement plant quarry, which is being sold separately.
Realtor photos offer an impressive look into the compound which most people have previously only seen from satellite imagery.
The log structures strike a curious balance at times between a vacation rental, and a college dorm or retirement home on the inside. Some spaces were clearly built for large gatherings, hinting at the purpose of the compound.
The property is secluded, deep in the southern Black Hills, and to many, a dark history looms over it.
Rep. Timothy Goodwin (R-Rapid City) is a South Dakota legislator who became deeply involved in efforts to enforce state law within the compound. In 2019, he sponsored a bill that would make it a misdemeanor offense to not report births and deaths to the state.
“When I ran for office, I decided that was going to be my main goal,” said Goodwin on a phone call with KELOLAND News. “There was just a lot of atrocities going on there.”
Goodwin had strong feelings about the fundamentalists within the compound, referring to them as a cult, who had not reported birth or death records to the state in over a decade at the time, according to the Dept. of Health.
South Dakota law did require that these records be supplied, but the problem is that there was no penalty enshrined in law for not doing so.
The lack of birth records is a troubling issue.
“It was the headquarters for Warren Jeffs, who’s in jail in a penitentiary in Texas for all kinds of sex crimes,” said Goodwin. Jeffs, the leader of the FLDS, is serving life in prison for child sexual assault.
“I used to get letters from Warren Jeffs,” Goodwin recounted, “from the penitentiary in Texas. You didn’t even want to read them because it was signed by ‘Jesus Christ.’ He was telling me that he was a prophet of God — it was so much blasphemy that you thought you were going to go to hell just reading it.”
Goodwin contends that horrific things took place in the compound.
“One of [Warren Jeffs] sons — Roy Jeffs — he wanted to go out to the compound and see his mother,” said Goodwin, specifying that Roy had left the church after growing up in it. “I got to spend a whole day with this guy, this young man who was really disturbed — I guess you could equate it to PTSD.”
Goodwin contends that Roy Jeffs told him that babies born with irregularities, such as Down’s Syndrome, were killed. “He had no reason to lie to me — I’d say what happened if there was a deformed baby — Down’s Syndrome or whatever? He just said they just killed them at birth.”
Without birth and death records, these allegations cannot be confirmed, and no remains have been found. Goodwin says he was told the bodies were burned.
Child sex trafficking and sexual abuse are among the other allegations levied at the members of the compound by Goodwin.
Goodwin says the lack of birth records also served as a controlling mechanism for the church. “They had nothing,” he said of the children born to the church. “They had a very minimal education, and they didn’t have an existence because they didn’t have a birth certificate or a social security card — they didn’t exist — they could even end their life and they never existed.”
Overall, Goodwin spared little in his criticism of the FLDS. “It was really a sick deal — it’s an absolute cult. It was kind of like an organized crime with sex and religion — it was absolutely evil is I guess the word you would say. It was the farthest thing from religion that there could be.”
The church’s presence at the compound ended when they defaulted on their loan of over $1.6 million. The property was foreclosed on, and was sold in 2021 to Chatwin, Pipkin and Cooke.