Trial shines light on secretive FLDS community

A summary of the case against three Bountiful members facing alleged child trafficking charges.

The trial for a trio of Bountiful members facing alleged child trafficking charges has been adjourned until closing arguments begin in Cranbrook Supreme Court on Monday.

The Crown’s case in front of Justice Paul Pearlman concluded on Tuesday, with the accused choosing not to mount a defence.

James Oler, Brandon Blackmore and Emily Blackmore are charged with alleged removal of child from Canada, under a criminal code subsection that their removal would facilitate sexual interference or invitation to sexual touching.

At the heart of the trial are two children who were removed from the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saint (FLDS) community of Bountiful, one hour west of Cranbrook near Creston, and married to men in the United States.

The marriages of the girls, who were 13- and 15-years-old at the time, occurred in 2004. Their ages are confirmed by birth certificates — their identities are protected by a publication ban.

According to priesthood records seized by police during a raid on an FLDS compound in Texas, the 13-year-old girl was married to Warren Jeffs, the leader and prophet of the FLDS,  on March 1, 2004, as one of seven marriages conducted that day. The record lists Brandon Blackmore as a witness.

The second child, 15, was married to James Leroy Johnson on June 25, 2004, in one of 18 weddings that day, with the record listing James Oler as one of the witnesses.

In his opening statement, Crown counsel Peter Wilson, a special prosecutor appointed by the B.C. government, admitted the case will be challenging for the judge to consider, given that the indictment deals with unusual and rarely pursued charges with ‘no area in jurisprudence that has similar cases.’

The Warren Jeffs connection

Witness testimony from former FLDS members throughout the trial has shed light on what life was like — especially for women — while growing up in Bountiful.

From a family structure point of view, children and wives are instructed to obey the priesthood head — the paternal figure of the family. The men are taught to unflinchingly follow the instructions of the prophet, the FLDS leader, who they believe receive divine revelations from the Lord.

Women are instructed to dress conservatively, while wearing their hair in a manner approved by the priesthood head, all while living a creed to ‘keep sweet’ and be happy, without giving rise to anger or emotional outbursts.

Witnesses also testified that the FLDS doctrine of plural marriage — polygamy — is necessary to achieve the highest glory in Heaven and that the role of married women is to bear children, which are inhabited by celestial spirits at conception.

Warren Jeffs, the leader of the FLDS, is currently serving a life prison sentence delivered in a Texas courtroom following his conviction on two counts of sexual assault of a child.

He was previously convicted of similar charges and sentenced to 10 years to life in Utah; however, that conviction was overturned in 2010.

Jeffs took over leadership of the FLDS in 2002, following the death of his father, Rulon, who had previously headed up the fundamentalist organization.

That had a direct impact on life in Bountiful.

After Rulon died, a power struggle emerged between Warren Jeffs and Winston Blackmore, who were both vying for the FLDS leadership.

Witnesses testified that families were torn apart as the community divided to stand behind their preferred candidate.

Warren Jeffs eventually took over the FLDS leadership and promptly excommunicated Winston Blackmore, installing James Oler as bishop of the Bountiful community.

To this day, Bountiful remains divided, with rival factions urged not to communicate with each other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Posted

The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League met for their AGM and announced a number of new initiatives, new awards and changes in their executive committee, as well as the starting date for the 2021-22 season. Paul Rodgers file.
KIJHL announces start dates for 2021-22 season

Season set to begin Oct. 1 with league still following all health guidelines

Calvin Dickson photo.
Severe thunderstorm watch in effect for East Kootenay

Conditions favourable for the development of thunderstorms, hail and heavy rain

The Independent Investigations Office of BC is looking into a Castlegar incident. File photo
Police watchdog investigating Castlegar incident

IIO: Woman sustained a reportedly self-inflicted injury

Mount Baker Secondary School in Cranbrook.
Graduation ceremony in the works for MBSS Class of 2021

The Mount Bake Secondary School Class of 2021 will have a graduation… Continue reading

After being forced to cancel in 2020 due to the pandemic, the Wasa Triathlon is being organized for August. Bulletin file photo.
Information released for Gerick Sports Wasa Triathlon scheduled for August

In 2020 the COVID pandemic forced the Gerick Sports Wasa Triathlon to… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

B.C. ambulance station in Revelstoke is expected to get a new system called the Scheduled On-Call (SOC) this fall. (Liam Harrap - Revelstoke Review)
B.C. ambulance changes could put Revelstoke residents at risk, warn local paramedics

Paramedics said to expect a substantial increase in ambulance response time starting this fall

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

FILE – 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
B.C. watching U.K.’s COVID struggles but don’t think province will see similar pitfalls

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

Most Read