A former police chief who served the twin towns that the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints dominates is coming forward for the first time, claiming he lived in fear that Warren Jeffs and other church leaders would take his family away if he didn’t do their bidding.
“This community has always been a theocracy,” Helaman Barlow told ABC News’ “Nightline” in an exclusive interview.
For years, Barlow said he was the head of the marshals that patrol the twin towns of Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah — because the community straddles state lines they have town marshals. Barlow is now divulging what he says are church secrets to federal investigators, who are suing the local town governments, accusing them of being wholly controlled by the church. It’s a charge local officials in both towns deny.
“To be a police officer in this community and to be hired by the marshal’s office is a calling from the church,” Barlow said. “You had to get permission to go to the police academy from the church.”
Even though Warren Jeffs, the leader of the FLDS Church, is serving a life sentence in prison for marrying and raping two 12-year-old girls, Barlow alleged that Jeffs still controls every aspect of life for most of the roughly 10,000 people who live in the community, from what they believe, to what they own, to who they marry, even what they eat.
But now there is a small but growing movement to wrestle control away from Jeffs, and Barlow is one of the key players in doing that. Since leaving the church, Barlow has grown out his hair and grew a mustache, and now rides a motorcycle, all of which he said is to show he is in defiance of church rules.
“It’s more of statement to show that I’m not with the church, I’m not with the Jeffs. I’m obviously out,” Barlow said. “For me, it was an outright overt act to show everyone I’m done with it. I’m done.”
As the chief marshal, Barlow said his job was to “protect the church.” He joined the force 20 years ago and said he quickly learned that the marshals work hand-in-glove with FLDS Church security, known as “The God Squad,” who keep a close eye on outsiders.
“They have a huge network of cameras in this community,” Barlow said. “They can watch every street.”
Serving under Jeffs, the former chief said he was asked to do things he now regrets, but he isn’t willing to publicly admit all of those things yet because he is still working on an immunity deal with federal investigators.
In a deposition with the U.S. Department of Justice, Barlow stated that the marshals knew of widespread underage marriages in the community and didn’t do anything to stop it. Barlow also said he was asked by a city official to alter police reports.
In addition, when Jeffs was on the run and listed as one of FBI’s “Most Wanted,” Barlow said he personally audio-taped conversations with law enforcement officials and then made them available to Jeffs.
“I knew it was wrong, but it was a way for me to keep my value up,” Barlow said.
Barlow said he lived in constant fear that the Jeffs could take his wife and kids away from him if he didn’t do what the prophet asked.
“With one phone call, he could call me and say, ‘yeah, you’re out,’ and I would say, ‘I’m not going,’ but then he could call [my wife] and say, ‘he had no priesthood, he has to go, you have to leave him,’” Barlow said.
SOURCE: DAN HARRIS, ARISTIDES PINEDO-BURNS and LAUREN EFFRON
via NIGHTLINE / ABC News