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

Cranbrook RCMP respond to fatal canoe incident at Moyie Lake

A young man died after a canoe overturned in the lake early Tuesday morning

Plenty of misinformation spreading on Draft Caribou Plan, Wildsight says

The environmental group Wildsight is advocating for the proposals put forward in… Continue reading

MLA Report: Caribou Recovery – Regrets and Regression

Doug Clovechok, MLA Columbia River - Revelstoke Last week, the residents of… Continue reading

News from the Kimberley Garden Club

Submitted by Marilee Quist At our April 16th, we met at the… Continue reading

Special Olympic athletes work on public speaking

The Kimberley/Cranbrook Special Olympics had two athletes build up their public-speaking skills

VIDEO: ‘Alarm bells’ raised by footage allegedly from B.C. pig farm, SPCA says

PETA released video Wednesday showing dead and injured piglets next to nursing piglets

New report on 2017 wildfires calls for better coordination with B.C. First Nations

Tsilhqot’in National Government documents 2017 disaster and lists 33 calls to action

B.C. youth coach banned amid sexual harassment, bullying scandal: Water Polo Canada

Justin Mitchell can’t take part in Water Polo Canada events or clubs

Wilson-Raybould: Feds want to just ‘manage the problem’ of Indigenous Peoples

Former federal justice minister speaks at First Nations Justice Council meeting in B.C.

VIDEO: Driver in bizarre hit-and-run at B.C. car dealership turns herself in

Police believe alcohol was a factor in incident causing estimated $15,000 in damages

Female real estate agents warned of suspicious man in Metro Vancouver

The man requests to see homes alone with the female agent, police say

Can you put your phone down for Mother’s Day?

#DiningMode campaign encourages people to leave the phone alone while eating

Horgan heckled as gas prices sit at record high, could go up more

Premier John Horgan blames refiners, not taxes

SPCA investigating after newborn kittens found in Vancouver dumpster

The kittens were found suffering from hypothermia and dehydration

Most Read