Polygamist Leader Waives Extradition
Friday, September 1, 2006; 3:46 AM
LAS VEGAS -- The leader of a polygamist sect said Thursday he would not fight extradition to Utah on charges he arranged marriages between underage girls and older men.
Warren Jeffs made his first court appearance since he was arrested Monday after more than a year on the run. The charismatic religious leader with an estimated 10,000 followers spoke almost inaudibly, and his blue prison jumpsuit hung loosely off his bony frame.
Jeffs, who was not represented by a lawyer, nodded when a Las Vegas justice of the peace asked whether he would be extradited to Utah. He is charged there with two counts of rape by accomplice and could get life in prison if convicted.
"What would you like to do?" Justice of the Peace James Bixler asked. Jeffs replied, "Go ahead and be extradited."
The 50-year-old leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints _ a sect that broke away from the Mormon church more than a century ago and has been disavowed by the Mormons _ was arrested after a traffic stop outside Las Vegas.
The manhunt had lasted more than a year and placed him on the FBI's Most Wanted List. The 2007 Cadillac Escalade in which Jeffs rode was carrying three wigs, 15 cell phones, several laptop computers and $54,000, police said.
Gary Engels, an investigator with Arizona's Mohave County attorney's office who has tracked Jeffs for years, surmised the fugitive may have just picked up the money before he was arrested.
"I have no doubt they had couriers running money to him," Engels said of Jeffs' followers.
Engels said he thought Jeffs might have been in southern Nevada to visit sect members who moved in recent years from Hildale, Utah, and neighboring Colorado City, Ariz.
He said the SUV was owned by John Wayman, a sect official who manages a company that recently moved from Hildale to Las Vegas and changed its name.
Engels had seen only photo and video images of Jeffs until Thursday's court hearing.
"He looked very thin, very gaunt," Engels said. "He looked like a man who's been on the run, a man under a lot of stress."