Jim Oler (front) walks towards the Cranbrook Law Courts building in February. Townsman file photo

More witnesses testify in child removal case

Testimony continued last week in the trial of a man associated with the Mormon fundamentalist community of Bountiful who is charged with removing his underage daughter from Canada to marry an American man in 2004.

James Marion Oler, who was previously acquitted on the same charge but overturned by the appeal court, is facing a removal of a child Canada charge in front of Justice Martha Devlin in Cranbrook Supreme Court.

Special Prosecutor Peter Wilson called witnesses that included a former bishop of a Fundamentalist Mormon community in the United States, as well as an RCMP investigator who was part of the Bountiful investigations.

A third witness, whose identity is protected by a publication ban, gave evidence about growing up in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) faith in Bountiful and went to school with Oler’s daughter for years.

Her testimony also outlined the circumstances surrounding her own marriage to a prominent polygamist leader who was 68 years old at the time in a series of weddings in Mesquite, Nevada, on June 25, 2004. Another one of those weddings also included a ceremony between Oler’s daughter and another American man.

The witness, who was just over 16 years old at the time, said she travelled to the United States from Bountiful a day before the wedding, after her father had received a phone call with instructions from FLDS leader and prophet Warren Jeffs.

Heading across the Canada/US border south of Creston with her parents, the van pulled off at a highway rest area and met up with a separate van, that contained Oler and his daughter, among others.

Most of the combined group piled into one van and headed to Cedar City, Utah, before stopping over for the night and moving on to Nevada the next day for weddings in Mesquite.

Today, that particular witness is no longer a member of the FLDS.

Also called to the witness stand was William E. Jessop, a former FLDS bishop of Short Creek — an area that includes two cities on either side of the Arizona and Utah border — who gave evidence about the priesthood authority and confirmed his attendance at Oler’s daughter’s wedding on June 25th, 2004.

Under cross examination from Joe Doyle, a friend of the court who is involved to ensure a fair trial, Jessop had trouble remembering specific details in weddings he had witnessed, other than notations marking his presence in marriage records.

Retired RCMP constable Shelley Livingstone, who was involved in Bountiful investigations, also took the stand to testify about her contact with David Allred, an American member of the FLDS who was set to testify in the current case, but changed his mind.

Livingstone said she reached out to Allred in late March, hoping to confirm his participation in the proceedings, however, he told her he did not want to come to Cranbrook to testify.

Crown is expected to argue that Allred’s evidence from Oler’s first child removal trial should be included into the current record.

Earlier this week, two experts — one on mainstream Mormonism and one on fundamentalist Mormon religious history and practices — gave opinion evidence in their fields of expertise.

Dr. Richard Bennett’s area focused on the origins of the mainstream LDS church and the fundamental precepts of the faith and significance of record keeping, while Dr. Brian Hales’ testified about the history of Mormon fundamentalism and the beliefs of the varying sects.

Dr. Bennett is a professor at Brigham Young University in Utah, while Dr. Hales is a Utah-based anesthesiologist and a member of the mainstream Mormon church who has written at least six books on Mormon fundamentalism.


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