The lawyer for polygamist fugitive Lyle Jeffs recently asserted her client cannot be found and may have been kidnapped or taken up to heaven in a "miracle of rapture" while he was under home confinement in Salt Lake City.
Jeffs is a bishop in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which broke with the mainstream Mormon Church years ago, and is infamous for polygamy, incest and marriages of men to underage girls.
Jeffs' defense attorney Kathryn Nester wrote in court papers: "Whether his absence is based on absconding, as oft alleged by the Government in their filings, or whether he was taken and secreted against his will, or whether he experienced the miracle of rapture is unknown to course," reports KSTU.
The "rapture" is a reference to a verse in the Bible, 1 Thessalonians 4:17, in which believers are supposed to be swept up to heaven.
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Salt Lake City FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Eric Barnhart told the news station in July:
[Jeffs] used a substance which may have been olive oil to lubricate the GPS tracking band and slip it off his ankle [on June 18] ... The damage to the bracelet was not such to trigger the full array of alarms that law enforcement or the U.S. Marshal's Service would have responded to.
According to federal prosecutors, Jeffs is one of 11 authority figures in the FLDS who told church members to fork over their Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program benefits, which amounted to over $12 million in taxpayer funds.
Prosecutors warned U.S. District Court Judge Ted Stewart in June to keep Jeffs in jail after his food stamp fraud and money laundering trial was delayed, but Stewart released Jeffs to home confinement with the GPS monitoring device.
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He disappeared in June from his home confinement.
Jeffs is the brother of Warren Jeffs, leader of the FLDS who is serving life in prison and is believed to be directing the church from behind bars, notes Rolling Stone.
"I'm still worried how this all ends up," Sam Brower, a private investigator and producer of a documentary about Warren, told the magazine. "Lyle has people loyal to him who will do anything to keep him hidden."
Former FLDS members say that Lyle helped Warren evade the law before Warren was captured in 2006.
"[Lyle] knows how the system works, he knows how it worked with Warren," Brower added. "They have places he could be hiding all over the country, or in Mexico, Canada, or South America. Or he could be hiding right under our noses."