Teen describes wedding day at polygamist leader's trial

Saturday, September 15, 2007
Warren Jeffs, left, and defense attorney Richard Wright conferred during Jeffs' trial Friday in St. George, Utah. Jeffs, head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, is charged with two counts of rape as an accomplice for allegedly coercing the marriage of a 14-year-old follower to her 19-year-old cousin in 2001. (Douglas C Pizac ~ Associated Press)

ST. GEORGE, Utah -- A former follower of a polygamous-sect leader sobbed on the witness stand Friday as she described the terror and despair she felt on the eve of her wedding at age 14, and said she became intensely depressed after having sex.

"I kept thinking I felt like I was getting ready for death," she testified on the second day of the trial of Warren Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Jeffs is charged with two felony counts of rape as an accomplice. Prosecutors contend he used his religious authority to coerce the ceremonial marriage and pressure the teen bride to have sex with her 19-year-old cousin against her objections.

In her testimony Friday, the woman, now 21, said her efforts to avoid the union failed.

The marriage took place on April 23, 2001, in a motel in Caliente, Nev., owned by FLDS members. Describing her emotions during the wedding ceremony, the woman said: "Trapped. Extremely overwhelmed. Immense pressure."

In the FLDS community, marriage and motherhood are considered the highest achievements for women, who pray to be prepared to marry and follow a worthy man from a young age. But girls receive no information about their bodies, sexual relations or procreation, the woman testified, and she said she didn't even know sex was the means by which women had babies.

Married for at least a month before they had intercourse, the woman said her husband told her it was "time for you to be a wife and do your duty."

"My entire body was shaking. I was so scared," she testified. "He just laid me on the bed and had sex."

The woman finally left her marriage and was forced out of the FLDS community in November in 2004 after she became pregnant with another man's child.

Jeffs, 51, has led the FLDS church since 2002. Jeffs was a fugitive for nearly two years and was on the FBI's Most Wanted list when he was arrested during a traffic stop outside Las Vegas in August 2006.

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