Life in Bountiful under trial microscope

Witnesses testify about growing up in polygamous sect near Creston.

Jane Blackmore said she felt like she’d been ‘sucker-punched’ after being told to marry Winston Blackmore when she was just over eighteen years old.

Blackmore, a former wife of the polygamous leader of Bountiful, testified in Cranbrook Supreme Court during the trial of James Oler, Brandon Blackmore and Emily Blackmore, who are facing alleged unlawful removal of child from Canada charges.

Jane Blackmore spoke on Wednesday and Thursday about her experiences growing up in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints church (FLDS), including details on religious teachings, how women and men were expected to live in their everyday lives and submit to the will of the priesthood head — the family father or husband.

Her testimony in front of Justice Paul Pearlman also included details on how the community was divided after the death of former FLDS prophet Rulon Jeffs in 2002 and the ensuing power struggle between his son, Warren Jeffs and Winston Blackmore, who were both vying for the FLDS leadership.

Bountiful was split almost in half as members sided with their preferred candidate, which tore some families apart, said Jane Blackmore.

After Warren Jeffs was proclaimed the prophet, Winston Blackmore was excommunicated by the FDLS, which caused tension in Bountiful as feuding families that supported opposite candidates were barred from communicating with each other.

 

Life in Bountiful

Jane Blackmore was married to Winston Blackmore in a placement marriage in 1975, where the FLDS prophet — Leroy Johnson at the time — was told by God that she was to be married to Winston Blackmore during a religious conference in Alberta.

The next day, the two were married.

Jane Blackmore spoke about growing up in Bountiful with parents who had converted to the FLDS faith. Her father moved to the community in 1959 with Jane, who was an infant at the time, and his first wife, marrying six times over the course of 15 years.

According to FLDS doctrine, plural marriage — polygamy — is how members obtain celestial glory, by having as many children as possible to further the kingdom of the priesthood head as God’s chosen people.

As a child, Jane Blackmore was one of roughly 30 students who attended a private school in Bountiful and graduated Grade 12 through distance education with only one other person in her class.

When she was 13 years old, the FLDS prophet told her in a blessing that she would administer to the sick in the end of days, so she had always had designs on going to nursing school.

However, women were not allowed to go to post-secondary education unless they were married with children and had the consent of their husband.

After her marriage to Winston Blackmore, Jane Blackmore upgraded some courses and completed a three-year registered nursing program at Selkirk College in Castlegar in 1988.

Later, with the approval of her husband, she completed midwifery training in 2000 and delivered babies in Creston and the Bountiful community.

Jane Blackmore left her husband and the FLDS community in 2003 after 27.5 years of marriage, moving into Creston with her young daughter.

She testified that during her time as a midwife in the community, it was fairly common for her to care for 15-year-old pregnant girls.

John Gustafson, the defence lawyer for Brandon Blackmore, took Jane Blackmore through her birth-keeping records under cross-examination on Thursday, noting that in over 302 births, four girls were identified as being 16 years of age.

Another former member of the FLDS community, Esther Palmer, also testified on Thursday about life in the polygamous sect.

Like Jane Blackmore, Palmer grew up in Bountiful and was married as a second wife in 1983. Palmer had always desired to be a nurse, and knew she would be able to go to school until she had married and had children.

After the birth of her children, She pursued nursing school at Selkirk College and later midwifery training delivered through a post-secondary institution in Seattle.

She left the Bountiful community in 2012 and continues to work in the health care field in the region.

 

Legal wrangling

Complicating the trial is the fact that James Oler and Emily Blackmore do not have legal counsel and are self-represented, while Brandon Blackmore has a lawyer.

Crown counsel, led by special prosecutor Peter Wilson, laid out their case on Wednesday, with the expectation of calling eight witnesses, from Bountiful members to police investigators.

However, evidence was vetted before the trial in a voir dire — a process that puts determines the admissibility of the evidence and is under an automatic publication ban.

In most judge-alone trials without a jury, that evidence would simply be rolled over into the main trial, however, all three defendants must give their consent, a routine procedure which James Oler and Emily Blackmore have not agreed to.

If the evidence is not rolled over into the trial, Crown will have to recall the evidence submitted in the voir dire in open court and is likely to extend the trial by two weeks, according to an estimation from Wilson.

Twice, Justice Pearlman has asked James Oler and Emily Blackmore for consent, however, Oler has responded on behalf for them both, saying “we have no position.”

The trial will resume on Monday, Nov. 28, with the Crown hoping to wrap up their case by next Thursday.

Just Posted

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interior Health COVID-19 cases falling slower than the rest of B.C.

More than a third of provincial cases announced Thursday came from the Interior

Students at Creston Valley Secondary School put together an art installation of a replica residential school room. (Photo by Kelsey Yates)
Creston students create art installation of residential school room

The replica was decorated with a small bed, school uniform, and notes written with pleas for help

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Second dose vaccinations accelerating throughout region: Interior Health

To date, more than 675,000 doses have been administered throughout the region

1914
It happened this week in 1914

June 13 - 19: Compiled by Dave Humphrey from the archived newspapers… Continue reading

Cranbrook Arts has opened the doors of their  new gallery space to the public with their inaugural exhibit, Kootenay’s Best.
‘Kootenay’s Best’ opens Cranbrook Arts’ new gallery

This exhibit has been in the works for the past several months and features the work of more than 50 emerging and established artists from across the Kootenays

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Most Read