The patriarch, polygamy and power

Women are drawn to polygamous relationships because they offer the promise of love and salvation. Nobody ever mentions the part about abuse.

First, Allen Harrod married Ila (at left in bottom photo and with child in center, right photo). Then, Ila’s sister Irene (at right in bottom photo and in the center, left photo) became his “wife.” Now, the Harrod children say Allen and Irene molested them as part of religious ceremonies held inside their home.

First, Allen Harrod married Ila (at left in bottom photo and with child in center, right photo). Then, Ila’s sister Irene (at right in bottom photo and in the center, left photo) became his “wife.” Now, the Harrod children say Allen and Irene molested them as part of religious ceremonies held inside their home.

For Irene Hunt, it was a string of failed marriages and the desire to turn her life around and abandon the party lifestyle into which she had fallen—her desperate need to belong—that drew her into the orbit of Allen Harrod. He was the man she came to call her “Lord” and whom she said God told her to obey without question. She would follow him for 20 years, eventually to jail, where the two now face life in prison and sit accused by Sacramento County prosecutors of molesting their own children as part of the rites of their own bizarre brand of Mormon polygamy.

For Tammy Steeves, it was simple loneliness, the pressure of being a single mother with three kids, and the prospect of finding a man who could really take care of his family, that led her into the arms of the charming teacher at her local Mormon church. Luis Gonzalez had drawn her into a polygamous cult called the Church of Jesus Christ of the United World Order. She later would tell police that Luis had beaten her and molested her then 11-year-old daughter.

Although these two women’s stories are different in many aspects, they are each disturbing accounts of life inside isolated polygamous cults—not in the rural counties of Utah, but inside the suburban households of Sacramento. Both women had come from strict, sheltered religious backgrounds and had had little luck in their early marriages.

Both men—who may spend the rest of their lives in prison—drew on old Mormon scripture, had notorious polygamists as their mentors and, according to the women who loved them, used the doctrines of plural marriage and patriarchy to satisfy their appetites for sex and power.

Irene was brought up in the confines of a strict Pentecostal home in Placerville. She was never allowed to date boys and so rebelled as a young adult. “I used to drink heavy, I was a heavy smoker, and I used to party big-time. I was nothing but a bar hopper,” she said.

After three failed marriages and the birth of three children by age 29, Irene was ready to turn her life around by turning back to God. Her sister’s husband, Allen Harrod, was eager to help.

In 1981, Allen and his wife, Ila, had returned from Utah where he had served in the Air Force and where the couple had converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), commonly called the Mormon church.

When the Harrods settled in Folsom, Allen was eager to spread the Mormon gospel to his friends and family. He found an avid student in his sister-in-law, Irene. “I wanted a clean slate, to live for God,” she explained. Irene and her three children started attending the local ward of the Mormon church with the Harrod family, which included Allen, Ila and their four children. And though Irene said she was essentially illiterate at the time, Allen began to teach her to read. Irene’s husband showed little interest in her new faith, but she did, indeed, turn her own life around. “I quit drinking,” she said. “I quit smoking. Just quit, flat out.”

Irene left her husband in the spring of 1983, taking the kids with her to live with the Harrods. All the while, Allen was becoming an influential mentor and spiritual teacher to Irene. With his guidance, Irene prayed and was given a revelation by God that Allen was her “patriarch,” and she addressed him directly as “my Lord.” This sort of direct communication with the supreme being is an aspect of the Mormon religion.

“I was convinced that God was telling me, ‘This is your last chance to have something in your life. Here is your patriarch. You do anything and everything he tells you.’” And she did.

At age 35, Tammy Steeves was tired of being single, tired of guys who shied away from relationships because she had three kids from previous marriages, and tired of being alone.

She’d been raised in a Quaker household on an Indiana farm. Her parents were strict and had kept their daughters constantly busy with chores—a life she likens to that of a farm animal: “We were basically just fed, watered and put to bed.” Tammy said she didn’t date boys and had few friends. On the farm, she was isolated from other young people, and “we were ugly and poor,” unfashionable and unpopular with the kids in town. The first chance she got, she ran away to California and married the first boy she kissed; then, she had his baby.

After the birth of two more children and after another marriage fell apart, she was introduced to the Mormon religion by a girlfriend and baptized into the church in 1990. She took advantage of the singles dances that were held at the Redding ward of the LDS church. It was there that she met a man called Michael Alexander.

Alexander appeared to be popular and well-known around the ward. He taught classes to young adults and told Tammy that he led the Spanish-language branch of the ward.

The two soon started dating, and he showered her with attention—romantically and as a spiritual mentor. Early in their relationship, Tammy said, the two spent 16 hours straight talking on the phone as he counseled her about her difficult on-again, off-again, relationship with her ex-husband and courted her all the while.

Alexander was handsome and charming, and, more importantly, he was great with the kids. Though many men had shied away from getting serious because Tammy already had three children, Alexander was different. She explained: “He was like, ‘Wow! You only have three kids? Would you like to have more?’”

She attended prayer and study meetings with Alexander outside the church at the homes of a small group of followers that Alexander had gathered around himself.

It soon became clear to Tammy that Alexander and his cadre were believers in polygamy, the doctrine of plural marriage formally disavowed by the LDS church in 1890 but that survives in tenacious pockets of polygamous communities in Utah and Arizona and in still-smaller splinter groups throughout the western United States.

Then, she learned that two female students of Alexander actually were his plural wives. And she found out that Alexander’s real name was in fact Luis Gonzalez. Later, she would learn that Michael Alexander was the name he gave to “outsiders” and that learning his true name meant she was being invited into his inner circle.

Luis and his two wives asked her to become a plural wife.

For Irene, “things really went beautifully” for about two years in the Harrod household after she moved in with Ila and Allen.

But sometime in the fall of 1985, Ila suddenly left, taking her five children with her. Ila later told investigators that she left Allen because she became aware that he and her sister, Irene, were having an affair.

But Irene recently said that what really was happening went far beyond a mere affair. In fact, Irene said that the two women became “sister-wives” on June 6, 1983, during a ceremony the three performed themselves in their Folsom home.

“He had [Ila] read the book of Ruth because it has one of the ladies giving Hagai [sic] or somebody over to her husband,” Irene explained, apparently referring to the biblical story (actually in the book of Genesis) in which Sarah consents to her maidservant Hagar marrying her husband Abraham so that they might have a child because Sarah was infertile. The story of Sarah and Hagar is sometimes cited as justification by polygamists for the Mormons’ originally held belief in and advocacy of plural marriage. But by the way Irene now gives her account, it seems as if she was not nearly as familiar with the old scriptures as Allen was.

“Allen asked if [Ila] consented for me being the second wife,” Irene said. “And she says, ‘Yes, I do allow my sister to come into our family and to be a second wife.’”

Ila (her current last name is now Hutchinson) denies ever having been part of a polygamous marriage with her sister, and if there had been any marriage ceremony between Irene and Allen, she said, she was unaware of it.

Irene said the arrangement worked well, for a time. “We kept a tidy home for Allen. We felt we both had a baby sitter all the time,” for the seven children they had between them, she said. The children regularly attended the local Mormon church, and they got plenty of scripture at home. And the Harrods kept multiplying. Irene bore a son unto Allen in April 1984.

But after the boy was born, “things started getting a little upset,” Irene recalled. “I guess you’d call it jealousy. [Ila] didn’t feel like she was getting enough attention.”

Ila, however, told police investigators and SN&R that while in Utah, Allen became very interested in the idea of polygamy and that it had become “a problem” in their marriage. Ila said she rebuffed his suggestions that they recruit more wives and that he backed off and never brought it up again.

She denies knowing anything about a plural marriage or much of anything about Allen’s religious practices. “I had no idea of what was going on a lot of the time,” Ila explained, adding that she worked two or three jobs at the time, while Irene stayed home to watch the children. Ila said she left after her oldest daughter told her of an affair between Allen and Irene and after her children began to tell her of physical abuse—that their father beat them. Ila also said that she was troubled to learn that her children had been instructed by Allen to refer to Irene as their mother.

After Ila left, Allen cut the connections with her side of the extended family. Irene said that Allen then made her send two of her children, twin boys, which she had from her previous marriage, off to live with their father. To this day, Irene has not had contact with those children or with her sisters or even her own mother. Irene had her last name legally changed to Harrod and eventually bore three more children for Allen.

Years later, court documents show, many of the Harrod children described to police how strict their father was and how he would beat them if they disobeyed or would make them lay outside in the mud in a rainstorm for punishment.

Irene said she was never to question the things Allen did or the things he made her do. “There was no back talk or pressing him for anything, you know: ‘Why are you doing this or that?’” she explained. “I was there to do as he told me. That was my command from God and that was without question.”

Luis Gonzalez was a patriarch, as well, though not the only one in his group. The meetings were attended by a couple of men from a local ward who were would-be polygamists but “couldn’t get a date,” said Tammy Steeves. She said there were practicing polygamists in the group, as well, and some were leaders from local wards of the Mormon church, who hid their plural marriages from their flocks. Luis’ status soon was elevated in the polygamous group; he was the first to attain a third wife.

And there were kids, a lot of kids. “It was all very family-oriented. There was never any concern that the kids weren’t getting what they needed.” The big family atmosphere of the group, the ready help of the other women in caring for the children, appealed to her, although she later chafed at some of the other aspects of polygamy.

On July 4, 1998, Tammy was “married” to Luis in a non-legal ceremony attended by herself, Luis, his two other wives, a dozen or so children and several friends and members of his fledgling church. They called themselves the Church of Jesus Christ of the United World Order.

In court, Tammy later would name a high-ranking official from a Sacramento-area LDS ward as being the man who performed their marriage ceremony.

After the marriage, she and Luis went to Utah on a two-day honeymoon. While they were there, she said, they visited and spent the night at the home of Ogden Kraut, a famous polygamist advocate and the author of several books on the subject. (Kraut died in the summer of 2002.) While they were at his home, Tammy and Luis picked up boxes of books and other literature for their group back in Sacramento. Tammy said they also attended church services with the Allreds, another famous polygamist family in Utah. “It was just like regular church,” she explained. “Except there were two or three women sitting with every man in the pews.”

When they got back to Oroville, Luis’ other two wives and their nine children had moved into Tammy’s two-bedroom trailer in Oroville. She was surprised and said she hadn’t thought the whole group would be living together, but rather that their husband would visit them at their own homes.

Luis took turns sleeping with his wives in the bedroom but spent much more time attending to their spiritual needs. “We had three or four hours of scripture reading every single night,” Tammy explained. Some of it was mainstream Mormon doctrine, but much of it was written by Kraut and other polygamist rebels.

Through it all, Tammy went along with the plural marriage, almost casually at first, not really taking it seriously. It seemed surreal to her for a long time, she said.

“I always thought I could get out,” she explained. “I always thought that as long as I could see the door, I could walk through it at any time.”

The Harrods, too, in their way, were part of a larger polygamist community, drawing from some of the same traditions.

Irene said Allen had been in contact with notorious polygamists for years, including Kraut and the Allreds. Irene also claims to have spent the night, along with Allen, at Kraut’s home in Sandy, Utah.

Allen had begun building his own group, with its own interpretation of the Mormon scriptures. It wasn’t a large group; it included only Allen and his family and another family led by Michael Labrecque, who had worked with Allen at Mather Air Force Base, before he and his wife, Juliette, moved to Texas.

The families stayed in touch, and established their own religion: the Universal Church of Jesus Christ. According to Irene, Allen was the patriarch, and Michael was the bishop. Court documents show that both families changed their given names to biblical names. Allen became Isaac, Irene became Rebekah, Michael became Joseph, and Juliette became Mary. Many of the children had new names given to them, as well.

Much of what went on inside the Universal Church of Jesus Christ remains mysterious. But late in the fall of 2001, local law-enforcement officials got a disturbing glimpse into the life of a polygamist cult whose patriarch allegedly had run amok.

On September 26, 2001, some 15 years after Ila had walked out with her five children, Ila’s oldest daughter, by now in her late 20s, walked into the Folsom Police Department and claimed that her father, Allen, had molested her on numerous occasions, beginning when she was just 4 years old and continuing until her mother took her out of the house when she was 8.

She also accused her aunt Irene of helping Allen to molest her and her sisters and of taking pictures of the acts. The police began to phone and question Allen and Ila’s three other daughters, all adults by this time. According to detectives’ testimony, the other daughters had their own stories of abuse. (SN&R has not used the names of the alleged abuse victims to protect their identities.)

Evolution of the patriarch: Allen Harrod as he looked in the early 1980s and late 1980s (left and middle photos) and as he looks today (right). As he grew older, the religion he created grew more elaborate.

Several of the details that emerged in the detectives’ reports were bizarre and horrifying. According to testimony from police detectives, Allen had abused his own children in ways that were exceedingly degrading and at the same time ritualistic, as though part of a religious ceremony. Several of the accounts also put Irene in the same room when the molestations were occurring. The children also claim that Irene took Polaroid pictures of the abuse and, on occasion, helped to prepare the children for the ritualized molestation.

The daughters also described a cultish hierarchy, in which specific sexual favors to their father meant being raised to a higher spiritual level. For performing these acts, the children said they were given little anklets with charms on them.

Allen’s adult children also made statements to police investigators that their father threatened to kill them or other family members if they told anyone what was happening to them inside the home.

The women’s stories gave police enough justification to make an arrest, even though the case was more than a dozen years old.

But even after everything the adult children had told the police, detectives said they were surprised when they went to make the arrests at the current Harrod home on Belleview Avenue in Sacramento. They expected to find Irene and Allen’s children there, and they did. But they also found four teenage sisters from Texas, whose parents were nowhere to be seen: the children of Michael and Juliette Labrecque.

On the day of the arrest, Allen would explain that the family was a tightly knit religious group that borrowed from both Jewish and Mormon beliefs. The Labrecques had sent their children for “spiritual training,” and the group was preparing to celebrate the Jewish festival of Sukkot.

One of the girls, a 19-year-old, told police at the time of the arrest that she was pregnant with Allen’s child. She also said that she had been “betrothed” to him for years, but that their sexual relationship began after she turned 18. He was her husband and “patriarch,” just as he was Irene’s. Allen’s young wife and two of her little sisters all wore anklets, similar to the ones described by Allen’s older children.

In all, Allen and Irene were charged with 97 counts of child molestation. A statement from the district attorney’s office says the six children were molested “as part of religious rituals in the home they shared with the defendants.” The district attorney in charge of the case, Del Oros, declined to comment, saying he wanted to protect the privacy of the victims.

Both Allen and Irene have pleaded not guilty. Allen’s attorney, Dani Williams, would not allow an interview with her client and said emphatically that her client was not guilty and that the case was nothing more than a “witch hunt.”

“These are extraordinary claims, and they require extraordinary proof,” Williams said, adding that the long string of allegations had the ring of fantasy. “They are just as extraordinary as the Salem witch trials or mass UFO sightings or the McMartin pre-school case,” Williams said, referring to an infamous Southern California case in which hundreds of children said they had been molested by day-care workers and in which allegations were made of secret tunnels and satanic rituals. Ultimately, no one was found guilty of abuse, and the case raised grave ethical questions about the investigators’ methods of interviewing children. Williams added that a jury should be skeptical of claims made so long after the fact. “They waited 20 years. That alone should cause some alarm.” And although the daughters’ accounts are all very similar, Williams said that is “typical of this sort of persecution.” Williams added, “Once the charges are made, the kids start talking to each other, and the fantasy spreads.”

Williams also has asked the court to try Allen and Irene separately, saying that statements that Irene has made through the media could be damaging to Williams’ client, Allen. The court has declined the request so far.

Irene’s attorney, Dean Johansson, said his client was under Allen’s complete control physically, mentally and financially. He said that Irene was given $20 a week in allowance, even though she worked two jobs in recent years. He said that Irene feared Allen and that she feared violence as much as the children did.

“Call it brainwashing, mind-control, Stockholm Syndrome, whatever you want. My client was as much a victim as Elizabeth Smart,” said Johansson, referring to the recent case of a young Mormon girl kidnapped in Utah.

Looking back on it, Tammy admits that she should have known better but that it was her choice to get involved with Luis. “But once you make that choice, you give up all your choice after that.”

Once the day-to-day reality of living with two sister-wives set in, she started to want out. Bickering and jealousy, she said, quickly surfaced. The sleeping arrangements became a source of constant tension, frustration and accusation. “I’ll be the first to admit, I was a flat-out bitch,” she added.

Money had become an issue as well. She said she had been giving her paychecks to Luis but later found out that the rent on the mobile home wasn’t being paid. They were eventually evicted from the Oroville home and took an apartment in the Sacramento area. All the while, Tammy said, she was maxing out her credit cards just to keep the family afloat. At one point, she told the group, “I want my money, and I want out.”

But it was too late. The more she expressed her misgivings, the more she was told that she was undermining the group and going against the will of God. She said that the others told her that they were having financial troubles because God was punishing them all for Tammy’s resistance.

Then, three months after her marriage to Luis, Tammy’s ex-husband died, and Luis told her it was a sign from God. “The scriptures say that a man can only marry a widow or a virgin,” Tammy explained, and she was told her ex-husband’s death was a sign that the Lord had blessed her union to Luis.

The sad death of her ex-husband, who succumbed to a heart attack at age 36, began a dark period of confusion, depression and what she believes was brainwashing.

She said Luis told her, after the fact, that he had a premonition that her husband would die. Then, she said, he began to tell her of visions that he was having, that he was in communication with her dead ex-husband, and he began referring to intimate details of their marriage that she thought Luis had no way knowing about. And then, she said, bizarre things started happening around her.

During a lecture, with more than a dozen people in the room, Tammy said, a man dressed all in black entered through the front door of the apartment, circled the room silently, visited a back bedroom and then left, without a word, and without comment from anybody in the group. Afterward, when Tammy asked who it had been (women were not allowed to asked questions during the meetings), she was told that nobody had seen anything.

Then there was the time she awoke to find Luis and the other wives all praying over her, trying to exorcise the evil spirits who were visiting her. “They said I was levitating off the bed in my sleep.”

She was constantly being given strange-tasting herbal teas that she now believes included valerian root, which is a depressant. She later realized that Luis had access to journals that she had kept for years, explaining his knowledge of her conversations with her ex-husband when they were married. And she now believes the black-clad man was a show, put on for her benefit to further confuse her and to convince her that evil spirits were nearby.

“I really believed all this stuff was happening to me,” she explained, adding that she went into a deep depression, that she didn’t want to stay but believed Luis had a real power over her.

When Luis brought home yet another “wife,” Tammy went into a tailspin. She said she attempted to warn the new woman away, telling her, “You don’t know what you’re getting into. You will have to give up everything.” When Luis found out, she said, he got violent. “He started slapping me around, and he ended up breaking my eardrum.

“Then, he told me that if I went away or tried to take my children away, that something bad was going to happen.”

She fled to Utah, this time to stay with an anti-polygamy group called Tapestry Against Polygamy, which offered her a sort of safe house. There, she said, the group essentially “deprogrammed” her.

“The brainwashing that goes on in these groups is incredible,” said Vicki Prunty, the director of Tapestry, who escaped not one but two polygamous marriages herself. “All free will for these women is given up completely.”

After two months, Tammy returned to the Valley ready to start over.

“When I came back from Utah, I had my strength and willpower back,” she said. But she quickly became entangled with the group again. For one thing, her name was on the lease of an apartment that the group occupied and later was evicted from. And she said she felt a certain obligation to the other two women and to their children, to help them get on their feet somehow. She was drawn back in for a time and even ended up living with the entire group at a campground in Folsom, where, she said, one of the other women went into labor with another of Luis’ children.

When Tammy finally left again, she said, Luis started stalking her, calling her constantly at home and at work. It was only after she got a restraining order, which Luis violated, that he was arrested.

The next day, with Luis behind bars, Tammy’s 11-year-old daughter went to one of her teachers and began to tell her story. She later told the court that Luis had molested her more than 30 times while she lived with him. According to court documents, the girl said Luis threatened to kill her mother if she told anyone what he was doing to her.

The girl testified that Luis told her that the Lord wanted them to be married, that it was OK because he was her stepfather. She said she often was required to pray before or right after the molestations.

In July 2002, a jury convicted Luis of 20 counts of child molestation, a single count of spousal abuse of Tammy and a single count of bigamy. He was found not guilty of raping Tammy or of stalking her. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison.

Neither Luis nor his other wives ever denied practicing polygamy. But Luis vigorously has denied ever touching Tammy’s daughter and has appealed his sexual-abuse conviction to California’s Third District Court of Appeal. His attorney, Hilda Scheib, did not respond to requests for an interview. Luis’ first attorney, Laurance Smith, said the case really was about jealousy between Tammy and the other wives. “She went into plural marriage with her eyes open” but became disillusioned later, Smith said. “It was clear that she became pretty pissed off.”

Nothing in the doctrine of the LDS church condones child molestation. However, Section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants (which were written by Mormonism’s prophet and founder, Joseph Smith, in the late 1800s and purported by him to be direct revelations from God) says that a man whose wife consents can take another, or several wives, and cannot be considered to have committed adultery, even if he is married. Nothing in the scriptures, of course, allows a woman to have more than one husband.

LDS leaders today say the doctrine of polygamy is no longer taught, and church officials naturally react with shock and revulsion at accounts of members of the church who marry or have sex with underage girls. And yet, there have been frequent and well-publicized accounts of sexual relationships with underage girls in the break-away groups, the polygamous cults some would call them, of Mormonism. Tapestry Against Polygamy estimates that there are anywhere from 50,000 to 80,000 people practicing polygamy in the United States, though only a handful are believed to be scattered around California. There has been a rash of news stories of patriarchs marrying young girls in Utah, none more bizarre than the sensational Elizabeth Smart abduction case.

Allen Harrod’s oldest daughter told SN&R, “This really has nothing to do with Mormonism. It’s just something my father cooked up to satisfy his demented lust for children.” And she discounts any notion that Irene, under Allen’s spell and the control he exercised as the family patriarch, should be let off the hook for the abuse she is alleged to have participated in. “She was right there with him, helping him make this stuff up.”

Prunty, the director of Tapestry, agrees, to a degree, that pedophilia and polygamy have little connection. She said she has heard scores of stories about child molestation and incest among the polygamous communities in her state. “And yes,” she said, “I’m certain that many of these guys are just deviants who use religion to do what they want to do.” But she also argues that polygamy is the “slippery slope” that leads to all sorts of abuse. In a plural marriage, when the man has unquestioned authority and when his wives are his subjects and servants, “he may feel that there are no boundaries,” Prunty explained.

As Tammy put it, “He was like a kid in a candy store. He wasn’t going to stop until something bad happened.”

When Allen and Irene were arrested, investigators feared that what the oldest daughter and her sisters alleged, had continued to happen for years to a whole new generation of Harrod children and to the other girls from Texas.

According to statements taken by police, the Labrecque children and the younger Harrod children have begun to tell investigators about incidents of molestation involving the Harrods in Sacramento. Police also have taken a statement from at least one of the Harrod children who was sent to live with the Labrecques in Texas. So far, the Harrods and Lebrecques have not been charged with any crimes related to this new wave of information.

Irene now says she didn’t agree with the Labrecque children being brought to live with them in Sacramento. “But [Allen] said, ‘They are here for religious purposes. They have to go through this. You basically don’t have no say.’”

After Allen and Irene were arrested and the Labrecque girls were found at their home, the Labrecques were called in for questioning by detectives from the police department in Fort Worth, Texas. The parents said that they had no knowledge of sexual acts being performed with any of their children.

However, in a signed statement given to the Fort Worth police, Juliette Labreque said, “Allen is giving my daughters spiritual guidance and also teaching them how they need to satisfy a man. I am not sure how he would train them because I was never there, but I know he has given them a lot of training.” The statement continued, “It may be in the plan that Allen have sex with my daughters to have pure children to offer to Yahweh, but I don’t know the whole plan.”

After Allen and Irene were released on bail, Irene said, they fled, along with the Labrecques’ oldest daughter, Allen’s young wife. They went to Illinois, to the town of Nauvoo, the site of the original Mormon temple. There, Irene said, Allen the patriarch blew a shofar, or horn, in a mingling of Jewish and Mormon rituals.

In preparation for the trip to Illinois, Allen took them shopping. “We took the money [from bank accounts], and Allen took us all to Arden mall,” Irene explained. “He wanted to buy this barber’s knife, the kind you shave with,” possibly meaning a straight-edged razor. “He said they were the sharpest kind or something. He purchased this because he intended to kill us with it.”

“If the police caught up with us, then he was supposed to take that knife and slice our throats with it. Then, he wouldn’t be in jail,” Irene said. “He was going to kill me first. Then, [the younger wife] was supposed to take the razor and cut him. She would be left alone because she was pregnant with his child. So, I guess he didn’t want her dead.”

Allen’s attorney, Williams, said the claim of potential murder-suicide is dubious, considering nobody died. She describes the story as “another piece of the fantasy.”

Illinois police arrested and then returned Allen and Irene to Sacramento to face trial. Williams said her client was not running from the law. “It wasn’t a flight. They had a legitimate religious reason to go there,” said Williams, noting that Nauvoo attracts thousands of Mormons every year. “They were arrested before they had an opportunity to return.”

The youngest Labrecque children are living with relatives now. The younger Harrod children, Irene’s children, have been scattered about—some are in foster care. Several of them are now in the custody of Ila’s oldest daughter, the daughter who went to the police, and she plans to take them to a new city once their parents’ trial is completed. Sources close to the investigation say the oldest Labrecque girl, along with her parents, have left Texas and are constantly on the move. They are now believed to be in the area of Nauvoo.

Irene’s fate soon will be in the hands of a jury, when her trial begins sometime in September. Tammy Steeves, who said she is now happily—monogamously—remarried, is trying to put the past behind her.