We have been coming to the twin towns of Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Arizona for many years covering stories about the thousands of devoted followers of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who live, govern and police the towns. Also known as the FLDS, members of the breakaway Mormon sect openly practice polygamy.
Each time we come here, we are noticed the minute we drive into either town. These are not the kind of towns where outsiders would have a reason or need to stop. There aren't any shops, restaurants or businesses that cater to the outside world. So the minute an outsider does arrive, they are noticed and met with skepticism. Children ride horses and are dressed like everyone else, in traditional FLDS clothing. They are controlled and ruled by their imprisoned prophet, Warren Jeffs. You don’t see children playing with toys or riding bikes. They are usually found working on homes or in fields with their parents.
Outsiders aren't trusted. It’s very difficult to have conversations with anyone in the community. A simple hello or even a wave is rarely returned. Children run the minute they see us driving down the street, some shout obscenities and others grab cameras and start recording our movements around the towns.
Last week, I had a completely different experience. I met six children who had just left the FLDS community and was pleasantly surprised by the fact that they can be just like most children. They laughed, we made jokes, we teased each other, and their laughter filled the park where we met them and their mother, Ruby Jessop. Jessop just escaped from the FLDS and was able to take all of her children with her. When we met them they were dressed in jeans, T-shirts, girls were wearing pants and all were riding bikes.
It’s a new life for their family, but how did they get to this point? Gary Tuchman has their story tonight at 8 and 10 p.m. ET on AC360°.
Watch Gary's report:
Anderson talks to the Sheriff of Mohave County, Arizona who vows to help members if they want to leave. Click here...
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