CEDAR CREEK, UT (KFYR) – Earlier this month, reporter Erica Craven told us about members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who live in rural North Dakota.
On Monday, several former FLDS members gathered in Utah to ask for help in finding their missing children. They say their children were helped to “escape” or return to a religious community led by convicted felon Warren Jeffs. But what does North Dakota have to do with Utah’s missing children?
Heber Jeffs was arrested earlier this year in Minot on kidnapping charges stemming from the disappearance of his 10-year-old niece. Jeffs was returned to Utah, but that may not be the end of the kidnapping story.
Keeping hope. That’s what several former FLDS parents did Monday in Cedar Creek, Utah. They want their lost children back.
“How is this going to be handled? This is child trafficking, this is kidnapping, this is not just a domestic dispute or children trying to run away,” said mother Lorraine Jessop.
A former FDLS member who now lives in North Dakota says she has a feeling some of these children may be in North Dakota.
“I have a hunch that there’s a good chance they could be here,” said one former FLDS member.
The group in Utah says it knows of 19 children who have gone missing. They say that Warren Jeffs latest prophecy is asking members to collect the children.
“I heard that North Dakota is the new place for Zion,” said one former FLDS member.
Former FLDS members in Utah say their children are abandoned or kidnapped in the middle of the night. Mothers say they tell their children where to go and even give them life-saving tools and phones.
“It’s definitely kidnapping, but the thing is, it’s hard to tell if the teenage kids wanted to stay in the church or not,” said one former FLDS member.
An attorney for the Utah group says that sometimes custody cases arise when one parent leaves the church and the other stays. Police say cases of runaways are difficult to trace.
“I tried to explain to them that it was not just him running away. They hide him, tell him what to do, where to go,” said mother Elizabeth Roundy.
A former member of the FLDS, Your News Leader left the church in 2017 and now works in North Dakota, but has little contact with current members of the religious organization.
Heber Jeffs is currently being held in Piute County, Utah, awaiting trial.
Previous coverage: FLDS members ‘congregate’ in North Dakota and why some have left the group
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