clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:


Even though an alleged polygamist group has disbanded and the ring leader is now in prison, an investigator for the Weber County attorney's office fears that some children associated with the group could become subject to sexual abuse.

Investigator Mike King said he has no assurances that children who were removed last summer from homes housing a group known as The Zion Society or Sisterhood are safe, because the beliefs within the group still may affect its members.King has been chief investigating officer in the case, in which nine members of the group have been charged with sexually abusing children. Seven of the defendants have pleaded guilty; three of them have been sentenced. The investigation is continuing, King said.

Eight of those charged have been women. The ninth was Arvin Shreeve, 61-year-old patriarch of the group. He was sentenced to serve a 20-years-to-life prison sentence after pleading guilty in November to two first-degree-felony counts of sodomy on a child and two second-degree-felony counts of sexual abuse of a child. Negotiations with the state resulted in an agreement that Shreeve would not be charged with further crimes in exchange for the guilty pleas.

Though Shreeve no longer has contact with other members of the group, that doesn't mean his teachings aren't still being carried out, warned King.

Has the sect broken up? "I don't think so. We get reports daily that ex-members are coming into the neighborhood to visit," King said.

The group was exposed last summer after police raided 10 homes in a north Ogden neighborhood and removed nine children. The children since have been returned to the neighborhood. Seven are currently in therapy.

"I'm not a bit comfortable with the children being back where they are," King said. "I'm concerned with reports that (teachings of the sect are) continuing." About 40 adults - 32 of them women - belonged to the sect, along with 30 children.

King said his investigation showed Shreeve was excommunicated from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints about 30 years ago for espousing polygamist beliefs. King said the Sisterhood Society was not really a polygamist group, because Shreeve never married any of the women, but they carried on a polygamist lifestyle.

"I think he (Shreeve) started getting out of control eight, 10 years ago," King said. "He set himself up as the leader, prophet, patriarch. He refers to himself as just a good neighbor, a grandfatherly figure that others look to."

Weber County Attorney Reed Richards explained that Shreeve slowly indoctrinated members into his group, which taught that part of his religion required family members to be close. "He did it very slowly," Richards said. "He orchestrated it."

Over time, Richards said, Shreeve convinced group members that having sex with children was OK, and he used the pretext of religion to satisfy his own sexual perversion. "He's a pedophile," Richards said. "He was having sex with the women and their children."

King described the "sister council" as a group of females who accepted Shreeve as their eternal companion who had the responsibility to assure the women a place in heaven.

"But he was more compelled by sex than religion," continued King. "Having those women became old hat, so he turned to the children."

Not only did Shreeve sexually abuse the children, but the women also had sexual contact with younger members, King said.

Local police started hearing rumors about the polygamist's neighborhood about 10 years ago, and King said early last summer he began his own investigation into the sect after an ex-member came into his office and confessed to teaching a sexual doctrine called the "Five Arts of Stimulation." The doctrine and teachings were handed down to the children, he said.

When the time came to raid the homes at 7 a.m. on an August day, King said that 53 police were on hand because he was told that members had weapons along with a survivalist attitude. "Our opinion was that we needed control at once for everyone's safety," said King.

Once inside the homes, King said police found loaded assault weapons, handguns and rifles in hidden compartments.

The investigator said he also learned how the homes were set up within the group - one house being used as a library, another as a clothing-sewing center, another used as a school and another for food storage.

Arrests were made without incident, and King said the children were taken into protective custody by state social workers. The children then began to talk.

So far, King said he has accumulated 600 felony complaints against members.

The female group members have entered guilty pleas to felonies as charged in negotiations with the state. In exchange for their pleas, the state has agreed not to file more charges against them.

King said he has no problems entering into negotiations with the defendants because the children are spared from having to testify in court.

"These people are being convicted of serious felonies, serious sexual crimes," added King. "I don't think there are any winners in this case. The children have lost. Arvin was a farce. I think Arvin lost."