A Polygamist Cult’s Last Stand: The Rise and Fall of Warren Jeffs
Today, Wyler works with the accountant in charge of the UEP to help those exiled by Jeffs return to their homes, which have sometimes been taken over by FLDS members. The state’s legal backing comes from a 2014 judge’s order mandating the eviction of FLDS members who refuse to comply with the UEP. This is the true front line in the battle for Short Creek, and it has law enforcement on edge. Wyler tells me he’s carried out more than 100 evictions in the past year alone, and the threat of violence is constant. A few weeks ago, he says, an FLDS woman pulled a knife on a member of his team during an eviction. He also claims the town police show up and tell him he’s trespassing, even though he’s carrying out state law. Wyler has begun asking deputies from nearby Mohave County to accompany him for his safety.
Wyler takes me to a property he recently vacated: a large brick house with stately Greek columns. Wyler says that when he starts the process of eviction, the FLDS sometimes sends “guards” over to take up temporary residence in the home. These squatters are usually women and children, and if possible, Wyler’s relatives. “It’s a sort of psychological warfare they’re trying to pull,” he says. “They call me a traitor, say I’m turning on my own.”
He points to a closet where the water heater should be. It’s missing. He explains that when the state takes possession of a house, they often find it stripped of anything of value – the water heater, the furnace, the light fixtures – before the state can sell it. “Sometimes you can’t find a doorknob,” he says.
“So why don’t you report this to the police?” I ask.
“The town marshals?” he says, laughing. “I have. Nothing happens. Heck, they’re probably the ones doing it.”
Next, Wyler takes me by a tent encampment within the town limits that some have taken to calling Lyleville, a not-so-subtle jab at Jeffs’ brother Lyle, the current bishop of Short Creek. Wyler explains that the properties carry years of unpaid taxes. A state judge empowered the UEP to work with the FLDS members so they can stay in their homes if they pay their back taxes and a $100-a-month occupancy fee. But Jeffs’ code of silence still rules. So instead of cooperating with the state in any way, the evicted have set up what looks like a U.N. refugee camp surrounded by 10-foot-tall metal walls. It’s hard to see what’s going on inside, but through the slats we can see a cluster of trailers and huge white tents. Before long, snow will dust Canaan Mountain and temperatures will plummet to near freezing. “I can’t believe they would rather have women and little kids sleep out here than cooperate with us,” Wyler says.