You never know what a routine traffic stop might turn up: Last week, the Nevada Highway Patrol netted a red Cadillac Escalade sans license plates and loaded down with police scanners, wigs, money-stuffed envelopes, and a prophet of God — or rather, the puffed-up, self-proclaimed “prophet” Warren Jeffs, 50, leader of a splinter sect of polygamy-lovin’ Mormons known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
The FBI’s Most-Wanted fugitive had been on the run for more than a year, avoiding charges related to corruption and sex crimes including child rape `See “The Hunt for Warren Jeffs,” August 9-15, 2006`. Conventional wisdom thought Jeffs might be scampering somewhere among a warren of hideouts offered by his estimated 10,000 followers* in Arizona, Colorado, Utah, South Dakota, or the little FLDS outpost and retreat in West Texas, a 3-year-old, $20-million compound north of Eldorado.
(*Followers is not strong enough of a word — authorities say his congregation is so brainwashed that they pay him up to $1,000 a month, allow him to redistribute clusters of wives, children, and property, and many of those kids think he’s the real president of the United States. Hopefully, someone will tell them that’s Dick Cheney.)
One imagines Jeffs really stocked up on his disguises and police-tracking accessories after being featured this past summer on an episode of America’s Most Wanted, the TV program that has helped nab more than 900 fugitives to date (making John Walsh’s record better than any detective’s in history). The reward for his capture had reached $100,000. And in the end, Jeffs, whose official FLDS Church title is “President and Prophet, Seer and Revelator,” couldn’t have foreseen that the state trooper who pulled him over with one of his wives and a brother would ultimately recognize him from the crime-busting TV show.
“It was a proud moment for me,” officer Eddie Dutchover told Good Morning America. “I couldn’t believe we captured him.”
Jeffs will be extradited to Utahistan (as that state came to be known after banning Brokeback Mountain from movie theaters earlier this year). What will become of FLDS settlements like the insular one right here in Texasudan remains to be seen.