20 May 2008

Grandmother talks about life in polygamist compound

Sioux Falls Argus Leader - May 19, 2008
Associated Press

PRINGLE, S.D. (AP) – A woman who fled the Canadian branch of a polygamist group whose ranch was raided in Texas says she got no indication during a recent visit to South Dakota that young girls here have been forced into marriage at the compound where her daughter lives.

It’s very possible that it has happened. But I couldn’t say, ’Yes, it has happened,”’ said Jane Blackmore of Cranbrook, British Columbia.

Blackmore said she’s a licensed midwife and has been barred from communicating with her daughter and four grandsons living at the sect’s secluded ranch southwest of Pringle in the Black Hills.

She told The Associated Press by telephone that she is worried her offspring aren’t receiving the proper medical attention and are prevented from leaving.

The fenced-in compound populated by members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints sits on hilly, rugged, secluded land in Custer County.

Blackmore met for a couple of hours with her son-in-law and 27-year-old daughter, Ed and Susie Johnson, in March after demanding to see her grandchildren. The meeting was set up by Custer County Sheriff Rick Wheeler.

“Nothing can keep a grandmother from her grandchildren,” Wheeler said.

It was the first time Blackmore saw the couple’s 8-month-old son, though she was not told his name. She said she has never met their 4-year-old and that it’s been years since she has seen the oldest boys, 6 and 8.

Blackmore, 51, said she left the Canadian FLDS community in 2003 because she didn’t want her youngest of seven children, a daughter who now is 14, to be forced into marriage when she turned 16.

She said she also left because of a rift created when her ex-husband, Canadian bishop Winston Blackmore, and the U.S. bishop, Warren Jeffs, each claimed the title of prophet of the sect that believes polygamy brings glorification in heaven.

“Each of those men thought they should be the prophet,” Jane Blackmore said.

“Everybody was having to choose who their prophet was. And I knew that Winston wasn’t a prophet and I knew that Warren wasn’t a prophet, so it was a no-brainer.”

Jeffs was convicted last year in Utah of forcing a 14-year-old girl into marriage with an older cousin in 2001.

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