James "Bo" Gritz tried.
So did Colorado Sen. Charles Duke, a longtime friend of the patriot movement.But it appears the inspirational words of a religious leader jailed in Provo were what led a Utah woman and her two young daughters out of the Freemen's Jordan, Mont., compound Thursday and into the arms of the FBI.
Accompanied by their aunt, Lynn Nielsen, 10-year-old Courtnie, and her half-sister, Jaylynn, 8, stepped off a plane to media fanfare about 7:30 a.m. Friday at Salt Lake International Airport. Within minutes, their arrival to the Wasatch Front was broadcast nationwide to television audiences.
Afternoon reports that Elwin Ward, his common-law wife, Gloria Ward, and the woman's two girls had walked away from Justus Township left the Utah Attorney General's office wondering what officials promised the Wards, a sister relieved and a father anxious to tell his little girl how much he's missed her.
"I just want to say, `I love you,' and hug her and be glad she's home," Courtnie's father, Robert Gunn, said Thursday from Kearns.
The girls are the youngest of 18 people who've been secluded at the 960-acre ranch since late March.
As time has passed during the standoff, residents near the ranch have pressured the FBI to resolve the conflict. Agents have become more aggressive and cut power to the compound Monday.
This urgency created "strange bedfellows" between Gloria Ward's sister and John Perry Chaney, the spiritual leader lodged in the Utah County Jail, said Joe Stumph, who went to Montana early in the standoff. Stumph, a constitutionalist and founder of The Committee of 50 States, met with Nielsen at a hearing for the inmate earlier this week.
Nielsen's attorney, Martin Tanner, said Gloria Ward's sister appealed to Chaney, and he agreed to write to the Wards. Nielsen does not subscribe to Chaney's beliefs. Nielsen apparently delivered Chaney's letter to the compound Thursday before the four walked out.
In a Salt Lake hearing May 15, 3rd District Court Judge Frank Noel granted temporary custody of both girls to Nielsen, court records show.
More than 10 weeks have passed since the woman Utah officials know as Tamara Mangum first sought the Freemen's refuge from two child custody violations issued in the Beehive State. When Gloria Ward emerged Thursday with the girls at her side, both appeared in good condition.
The tidy appearance lies in contrast to the state's charges against Gloria Ward and a lifestyle an assistant attorney general calls "perverse and criminal."
Despite reports the state had dropped charges against Gloria Ward, Craig Barlow of the attorney general's office said that offer was made in negotiations six weeks ago and may no longer apply. The Freemen ignored the conciliatory offer then, Barlow said.
He hadn't yet talked to FBI contacts Friday and isn't sure what was promised to the Wards when they came out. While he doesn't want to jeopardize the FBI's negotiations with remaining Freemen, he said he doesn't want to dismiss the charges "unless I have to."
In late April, Jaylynn's father, Steve Mangum, filed an affidavit with the court in which he agreed charges against Gloria Ward could be dismissed if the girls left the property. "I agree to this because I am very concerned about the physical safety and general well-being of my daughter, Jaylynn, and her sister, Courtnie," according to the document.
Factors that caused the agency to investigate the woman and file charges haven't changed, Barlow said. Gloria Ward has exposed her daughters to a religious group whose leader, John Chaney, believes girls are ready for marriage when they begin to menstruate, he said.
"We thought both kids were at grave risk," Barlow said.
Gloria Ward's oldest daughter, Leslie, 15, was married in a common law ceremony to 39-year-old Chaney.
Chaney is a traveling missionary originally charged with conspiring to commit rape of a child and conspiracy to commit aggravated sexual abuse of a child. Prosecutors say in 1993 he performed a marriage ceremony in American Fork in which he married his own 13-year-old daughter to a 48-year-old friend.
Chaney's young wife, Leslie, is in Michigan family services custody ready to give birth any moment.
Chaney tried to pay his $200,000 bail in February with a $400,000 bogus check signed by a Freemen leader.
It's been 18 months since Gunn last saw his daughter. Gunn never married Gloria Ward but lived with her. Courts granted him custody of Courtnie in 1994, but he has never been able to get Gloria Ward to turn the girl over to him.
During recent weeks, Gunn and Jaylynn's father, Steve Mangum of Bluffdale, both made unsuccessful trips to the Montana ranch to see about the girls. "I was so afraid they'd go in shooting or something and she (Courtnie) would get hit," Gunn said.
Gloria Ward and the children were driven to Miles City. State District Judge Kenneth Wilson signed an order Thursday giving Utah authorities jurisdiction over the children, and he gave temporary custody to Gloria Ward's sister, who earlier was credited by federal authorities with persuading the family to surrender.
No charges were filed against the Wards, but this does not mean they may not face charges, a federal prosecutor said.
The Gunns had been in weekly contact with the FBI but hadn't heard about imminent progress. Valerie Gunn answered her telephone Thursday afternoon and "Good Morning America" was on the line asking for a comment about the girls' release. Gunn quickly called the FBI. "All they said is, `She's out. She's safe. We have her.' That was all we needed to hear at the time."