In January, Utah attorney Alan Mortensen finally ended his yearlong manhunt. He walked up a driveway in Eden Prairie and handed a man in a white baseball cap some papers. Then he walked away.
That man was Seth Jeffs, brother to infamous cult leader Warren Jeffs. Warren is already serving a life sentence for his actions as the head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints, a Mormon offshoot best known for marrying a parade of underage girls to grown men, Warren included.
Now a survivor from the church is accusing Seth of helping his brother sexually assault her when she was just 8 years old – and standing by as she was repeatedly abused through her teenage years. Mortensen traveled to Minnesota to serve him court documents. But while hunting for Seth, he and KARE 11 discovered the former cult higher-up had been keeping himself busy.
Seth is listed as the “managing member” of a company called Emerald Industries, which purchased a remote 40 acres on Pike Lake Road just west of Grand Marais. He has a permit to construct a nearly 6,000-square-foot building there.
Mortensen worries he might be trying to build another compound and “start a religious colony” on Minnesota’s North Shore.
Little of the property is visible from the ground level, besides a “PRIVATE PROPERTY, NO TRESPASSING” sign and an unfinished driveway. But drone footage taken by a private investigator – albeit blurry – shows a large backhoe, a bobcat, a dump truck, and a construction trailer on the site. There’s also a sizable camper.
The investigator, Sam Brower, has been looking into Warren Jeffs’ church for several years. But all this footage can tell him is that Seth is “planning on doing some work” and he’s “planning on staying,” he told KARE 11.
That’s not exactly a balm to the restless citizens of the North Shore, who have been intently monitoring Seth’s slow march. Grand Marais held a town hall meeting last week on the mysterious 40 acres. About a hundred people attended, according to North Shore Community Radio.
Questions mostly revolved around what – if anything – the community could do to stop Seth from “establishing a presence in Cook County,” and if law enforcement could do anything.
In a word, Cook County Sheriff Pat Eliasen says, no. Not yet.
“Legally, we cannot deny him the permits because of who he is,” he says.
There’s a “high level of anxiety” in town right now, and it’s understandable based on Seth’s past. But he’s asking North Shore residents not to take matters into their own hands.
That’s not to say his department isn't paying attention. They’ve seen Seth working on the property, and there are a few incidents there that are currently under investigation. Eliasen can’t talk about them. In the meantime, he says, residents can stay vigilant if they see children working on the property, or if they see children in town “showing signs of distress.”
“Yes, please, please notify us,” he says.
Other than that, the best course of action is to wait until that court date. If he's found guilty of aiding in the plaintiff's sexual assault, it could allow the victims of the church to take the property before Seth can do anything with it. But that process could take years.