Ex-wife of polygamous sect leader to open doors to secretive home


HILDALE, Utah, May 8 (Reuters) - The Utah mansion where convicted pedophile and polygamous religious sect leader Warren Jeffs once lived is being purchased by one of his former wives, who hopes to make it a tourist attraction and home for people who have left the church.

The house and adjacent buildings are part of a walled compound that straddles two blocks in the town of Hildale, a twin border community with Colorado City, Arizona, where many members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints lived.

Jeffs, 61, was the spiritual head of the breakaway sect, which the mainstream Mormon Church has condemned for promoting marriage between young girls and older men. He is serving a life sentence in a Texas prison for sexually assaulting two underage girls he had married.

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Warren Jeffs and the FLDS
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Warren Jeffs and the FLDS
Women and children from the YFZ Ranch, the compound built by polygamist leader Warren Jeffs, are moved by bus to San Angelo, Texas, on Sunday, April 6, 2008. Authorities are investigating allegations of child abuse. (Photo by Khampha Bouaphanh/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT via Getty Images)
Women and children from the YFZ Ranch, the compound built by polygamist leader Warren Jeffs, are moved by bus to San Angelo, Texas, on Sunday, April 6, 2008. Authorities are investigating allegations of child abuse. (Photo by Khampha Bouaphanh/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT via Getty Images)
CENTENNIAL PARK, ARIZONA, USA - FEBRUARY, 2008: Trampoline jumping is always a hit in Ray Timpson's family. 17-year-old Rebecca looks after her younger siblings. The Timpson family is part of the small polygamist community of Centennial Park which was founded in 1986 south of the communities of Colorado City, Arizona and Hildale, Utah. The Centennial Park group split from the FLDS Church led by infamous jailed polygamist Warren Jeffs in 1986 because of doctrinal differences. (Photo by Stephan Gladieu/Getty Images)
UNDATED - UNSPECIFIED: In this handout provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), polygamist Warren Steed Jeffs is pictured on a FBI Ten Most Wanted poster. Jeffs, the fugitive leader of a polygamist Mormon sect, was arrested by a Nevada Highway Patrol trooper on August 28 during a traffic stop. Jeffs was wanted in Utah and Arizona on charges linked to allegations of arranging marriages between men and underage girls. (Handout by Federal Bureau of Investigation via Getty Images)
Women and children from the YFZ Ranch, the compound built by polygamist leader Warren Jeffs, are moved by bus to San Angelo, Texas, on Sunday, April 6, 2008. Authorities are investigating allegations of child abuse. (Photo by Khampha Bouaphanh/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT via Getty Images)
CENTENNIAL PARK, ARIZONA, USA - FEBRUARY, 2008: Some of Ray Timpson's children playing in the garden of the house they share with their very large family consisting of one father, six mothers and 41 children. The Timpson family is part of the small polygamist community of Centennial Park which was founded in 1986 south of the communities of Colorado City, Arizona and Hildale, Utah. The Centennial Park group split from a group led by infamous jailed polygamist Warren Jeffs in the 1980s because of doctrinal differences. (Photo by Stephan Gladieu/Getty Images)
CENTENNIAL PARK, ARIZONA, USA - FEBRUARY, 2008: Trailers in the polygamist town of Colorado City, a community at the border of Utah and Arizona ran by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) led by infamous jailed polygamist Warren Jeffs. (Photo by Stephan Gladieu/Getty Images)
Warren Jeffs (L) watches the jury leave the courtroom to restart their deliberation in his trial 24 September, 2007 in St. George, Utah. Jeffs, head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is charged with two counts of rape as an accomplice for allegedly coercing the marriage and rape of a 14-year-old follower to her 19-year-old cousin in 2001. AFP PHOTO/POOL/Douglas C. Pizac (Photo credit should read POOL/AFP/Getty Images)
CENTENNIAL PARK, ARIZONA, USA - FEBRUARY, 2008: Ariel Hammon, his two wives Helen and Lisa, and nine of their ten children watch cartoons in their house of Centennial Park, a small polygamist community at the border of Utah and Arizona. Founded in 1986 the Centennial Park group was born from a split over doctrine with the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) led by infamous jailed polygamist Warren Jeffs and based in the neighboring community of Colorado City. (Photo by Stephan Gladieu/Getty Images)
ST. GEORGE, UT - SEPETEMBER 24: With law enforcement behind him, Warren Jeffs waits for the jury to reconvene for deliberation in his trial September 24, 2007 in St. George, Utah. Jeffs, head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is charged with two counts of rape as an accomplice for allegedly coercing the marriage and rape of a 14-year-old follower to her 19-year-old cousin in 2001. (Photo by Douglas C. Pizac-Pool/Getty Images)
ST. GEORGE, UT - SEPTEMBER 21: Prosecutor Brock Belnap outlines the elements of the alleged offenses during closing arguments in Warren Jeffs' trial September 21, 2007 in St. George, Utah. Jeffs, head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is charged with two counts of rape as an accomplice for allegedly coercing the marriage and rape of a 14-year-old follower to her 19-year-old cousin in 2001. (Photo by Douglas C. Pizac-Pool/Getty Images)
ST. GEORGE, UT - SEPTEMBER 18: Defense witness Charlotte Jessop answers questions during Warren Jeffs' trial September 18, 2007 in St. George, Utah. Jeffs, former head of the polygamist Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is charged with coercing the marriage and rape of a 14-year-old church-follower to her 19-year-old cousin in 2001. (Photo by Douglas C. Pizac-Pool/Getty Images)
Defense witness Margaret Thomas answers questions during Warren Jeffs' trial 18 September 2007 in St. George, Utah. Jeffs, former head of the polygamist Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is charged with coercing the marriage and rape of a 14-year-old church-follower to her 19-year-old cousin in 2001. AFP PHOTO/POOL/Jud Burkett (Photo credit should read Jud Burkett/AFP/Getty Images)
ST. GEORGE, UT - SEPTEMBER 18: Defense witness Joanna Keate answers questions during Warren Jeffs' trial September 18, 2007 in St. George, Utah. Jeffs, former head of the polygamist Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is charged with coercing the marriage and rape of a 14-year-old church-follower to her 19-year-old cousin in 2001. (Photo by Douglas C. Pizac-Pool/Getty Images)
ST. GEORGE, UT - SEPTEMBER 6: Several television trucks are parked outside the 5th Judicial District Courthouse for the first court hearing for Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) leader Warren Jeffs September 6, 2006 in St. George, Utah. Jeffs faces sex charges involving an underage girl in an arranged marriage with an older man. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
COLORADO CITY, AZ - SEPTEMBER 6: Women sit on horses September 6, 2006 in Colorado City, Arizona. Warren Jeffs, of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is the leader of the polygamist Mormon sect living in Colorado City and Hildale, Utah. Jeffs, who will face sex charges involving an underage girl in an arranged marriage with an older man, will have his first court hearing September 6 in St. George, Utah. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
HILDALE, UTAH - MARCH 3: A large unfinished house (R) stands in contrast to the finished homes in the compound of the Prophet (L) of The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) Warren Jeffs March 3, 2004 in Hildale, Utah. Most of the homes in Hildale and Colorado City which is run by the FLDS Church are unfinished. The FLDS Church which believes in Polygamy, and is in legal battles with several former male members of the church over property rights and custody custody of their wives and children after they were kicked out of the church. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
SAN ANGELO, TX - APRIL 9: (TABLOIDS OUT; UTAH MEDIA-SOME RESTRICTIONS APPLY) (R-L) Richard Wright, Willie Jessop, and an unidentified man leave the Tom Green County Courthouse after attorneys for the FLDS church presented their case April 9, 2008 in San Angelo, Texas. Jessop is the former bodyguard for Warren Jeffs. Some 416 children were removed from the polygamous sect's West Texas ranch by officials last week after allegations of abuse were reported. The children were placed in temporary custody of the state. (Photo by Mike Terry/Deseret Morning News/Getty Images)
COLORADO CITY, ARIZONA - MARCH 3: A large church building of The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) stands empty and unused for almost a year March 3, 2004 in Colorado City, Arizona after the Prophet of the church Warren Jeffs said the people weren't worthy enough to attend church. The FLDS Church believes in Polygamy, and is in legal battles with several former male members of the church over property rights and custody custody of their wives and children after they were kicked out of the church. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
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Photos of the sprawling mansion, whose estimated value is $1.2 million, reveal its 41 bedrooms, meeting and prayer rooms, dining rooms and two commercial-size kitchens.

Brielle Decker, who said she was forced to be the 65th of Jeffs' 79 wives when she was 18 years old, is hoping to buy the mansion for a reduced price.

"Everything would flourish more if this thing was turned into something good," said Decker, who escaped from the FLDS five years ago. "That's my main goal."

Decker, 31, has occupancy of the property while she raises funds to purchase it. The mansion is big enough for public events and to house ex-FLDS members transitioning to the outside world, she said.

With its secretive history and proximity to Grand Canyon and Zion national parks, the house should attract inquisitive tourists, Decker said.

"We could do tours upstairs," she said, "and the middle floor, where the kitchens and the conference rooms are, could be used for events, a restaurant and a gift shop."

Decker spent several months at the mansion while Jeffs, who was once on the FBI's most wanted list, eluded police. Their marriage was not considered legal, and she is planning to wed her fiance next month.

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Warren Jeffs detention hearing
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Warren Jeffs detention hearing
​Ahead of a federal court hearing for Fundamentalist LDS Church bishop Lyle Jeffs, some ex-members of the Utah-based polygamous sect have claimed they are hearing rumors that his brother has prophesied the end of the world -- again.
The timing coincides with a scheduled court hearing for Lyle Jeffs. The U.S. Attorney's Office for Utah is urging a federal judge to keep Lyle Jeffs in jail pending trial on charges of food stamp fraud and money laundering.
The FLDS Church, a fundamentalist Mormon sect, is a breakaway religion from the mainstream LDS Church. Indeed, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not practice polygamy and excommunicates those who do.
Tonia Tewell, the director of the non-profit group Holding Out Help, which works with people leaving polygamous communities, said she has heard similar rumors from ex-members with family ties in Hildale and Colorado City.
On Tuesday, federal prosecutors asked for a one-week delay of Lyle Jeffs' hearing to present rebuttal evidence to a defense motion to release him. The defense points out that he has complied with court orders in other cases and denied that he was a flight risk.
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Properties belonging to the sect were held in a trust that was established in the 1940s so that members could benefit from its shared assets in line with their religious beliefs. The state of Utah seized the trust in 2005 and is selling back its assets to FLDS members and ex-members.

The compound is one of several FLDS sites sprinkled throughout Texas, Utah, Colorado, Arizona and South Dakota. (Writing by Patricia Reaney; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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