ST. GEORGE, Utah - A 14-year-old girl cried and was clearly troubled in the weeks preceding an arranged marriage to an older cousin, her sister testified Tuesday at a hearing that could lead to a criminal trial for the leader of a fundamentalist Mormon sect.
"She was 14," said Rebecca Musser, whose sister has a different last name. "It was just shocking and horrific. ... She didn't want to get married."
Warren Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is charged with rape as an accomplice for his alleged role in forcing the girl to marry her 19-year-old first cousin in 2001.
Musser was the first witness at a hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to send Jeffs to trial. The Associated Press does not identify victims of sexual assault.
Looking thin and gaunt in a dark gray suit, Jeffs, 50, sat nearly motionless for the first few hours. He smiled at family and fellow church members in the audience.
Musser is a former FLDS member who was married to Jeffs' late father. She recalled Jeffs telling her to counsel her teenage sister after the wedding at a Nevada motel.
"You need to encourage her to be happy. God has put this marriage together. You need to encourage her to be submissive and obedient," Jeffs said, according to Musser.
Utah and Arizona at the time were cracking down on marriages involving minors. She said Jeffs warned her that "this marriage could cause us some problems"
Security at the Washington County courthouse was extraordinary Tuesday.
Police sharpshooters dressed in black were posted on red rock hills that ring the building. No vehicles were allowed to park on the street.
In court documents, prosecutors say the bride, identified only as Jane Doe No. 4, objected to the marriage and later begged to be released.
Jeffs' defense team has said he is being persecuted for his religious beliefs.
Jeffs was arrested Aug. 28 and is being held without bail in the county jail in Purgatory, about 25 miles west of the twin towns of Hildale, Utah and Colorado City, Ariz., where most of his estimated 10,000 followers live.
The church arranges marriages for young girls and believes plural marriage ensures exaltation in heaven. Jeffs assumed leadership in 2002 after the death of his father. Followers revere him as a prophet who communicates with God.
The FLDS church represents itself as a fundamentalist offshoot of the Mormon church. But the Mormons disavow any connection and renounced polygamy more than a century ago.
Jeffs is also facing felony charges in Arizona in marriages involving minors. That case is on hold until after the Utah case is resolved.