Warren Jeffs is in a jail cell. But most of his thousands of followers remain in the twin border towns of Colorado City, Arizona and Hilldale, Utah.
I have now been in those towns several times. It has been an unfriendly place to be as a reporter, but now it's quite hostile. Warren Jeffs' followers believe outsiders (and particularly politicians and the media) are out to persecute them. Now that the man they believe is a prophet to God is in jail, they feel very besieged and confused.
When we try to talk to them to get their opinions, they either run away from us in fright -- they are told not to talk to outsiders) -- or mutter angry and derogatory things at us.
But we have discovered some exceptions. I walked up to Elsie, a 23-year-old woman. She is the mother of two, the only wife of a man who may ultimately marry more women, and a member of Jeffs' FLDS church. I asked her how she felt about Jeffs' arrest, and she nervously told this stranger she wasn't sure. But she warmed up to us, and she invited us into her modest home that like most FLDS (Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) houses has no television.
Elsie then told us that although her conservative lifestyle and religion are still important to her, she and her husband no longer love Warren Jeffs. Ever since he's been on the run, they say they realize he is dishonest, and no longer regard him as a prophet.
Elsie says Warren Jeffs presided over her wedding. She says Jeffs told her you will marry a man whom we have picked for you; a man she hadn't yet met. I asked Elsie how long after that introduction the marriage took place, and she told me five minutes later! I thought she was kidding, but she was not.
However, three years later, she says she has indeed fallen in love with her husband, Robert, and she remains grateful to Jeffs for matching them up. Nevertheless, she does believe Warren Jeffs is a hypocrite and not the man she once thought he was.
Hours after we interviewed Elsie, she told me she talked to her father who was not happy that she spoke with us. Elsie's parents are still devoted to Jeffs, and the parent-daughter relationship has suffered because of Elsie's independent views. Elsie told me she is sorry she hurt her father by talking with us, but adds she was always taught to be a nice person, and believed she was being nice by talking with us.
Elsie has undoubtedly lived a conflicted life. But whatever she has gone through, we did indeed find her to be very kind to us.