MINOT, N.D. (AP) — The nephew of imprisoned Utah polygamous leader Warren Jeffs will be returned to Utah to face charges that he kidnapped his niece, as he waived extradition at a court hearing Monday following his arrest in North Dakota.
Heber Jeffs was arrested by federal agents on Saturday after he was tracked to the town of Minot, but authorities don't know why he was there, said Sheriff Marty Gleave of Piute County, Utah. He was arrested after a search warrant at a home, Gleave said.
The 10-year-old niece, the daughter of Heber Jeffs’ sister, was apparently unharmed, Gleave said.
“Homeland Security is trying to arrange to get her back here and reunite with her mother,” he said.
Heber Jeffs is jailed at the Ward County Jail, the county's Sheriff Bob Roed said. It wasn't immediately clear if he has an attorney who could speak on his behalf.
Kidnapping charges were filed out of Utah against Heber Jeffs in December. Authorities said at the time that he and his niece had gone missing, apparently to keep the girl from her mother on orders issued by Warren Jeffsfrom prison in Texas.
Court documents say Heber Jeffs had kept the girl in his home in Kingston, Utah, since his uncle said months earlier that he received a revelation from God directing his followers to “gather” the community’s women “and prepare to move to a location or locations as directed by Warren Jeffs,” or his son, Helaman Jeffs.
Warren Jeffs is president of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The faith is an offshoot of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, widely known as the Mormon church, and espouses polygamy. It has historically been based in a small town that straddles the Utah-Arizona line. The mainstream church disavowed polygamy more than a century ago.
Since being found guilty on child sexual abuse charges stemming from underage marriages, Warren Jeffs has continued to serve as the group’s prophet from a federal prison in Texas where he’s serving a life sentence.
Prosecutors said that Heber Jeffs and his wife Sarah have cared for their niece since her parents split up when the girl was an infant. Rose Jeffs, the girl’s mother who is no longer an FLDS member, was allowed regular visitation and full access to her daughter until August. At that time, Heber Jeffs told her he would no longer allow visitation. The court documents point to the revelation as a primary reason.
Court documents say Rose Jeffs then demanded to take her daughter back, at which point Heber Jeffs said he planned to cut off communication. Later, when law enforcement began pursuing Heber Jeffs, they couldn’t find him at his home or places he had worked, prompting a warrant for his arrest.