HOUSTON -- A West Texas jury has found a former associate of polygamist religious leader Warren Jeffs guilty of bigamy.
Wendell Loy Nielsen, 71, stood trial for marrying three women in addition to his legal wife, two of whom he married on the same day in 2006. At trial this month, his attorney had argued that the sect's “celestial marriages” did not violate state bigamy laws.
The jury in San Midland, about 330 miles west of Dallas, deliberated for about an hour and a half before finding Nielsen guilty Wednesday of three counts of bigamy, court clerks told The Times.
Nielsen is the former president of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a Mormon offshoot sect. He was among the dozen people indicted after a 2008 raid on the sect’s Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado, about 150 miles southeast of Midland.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not recognize the fundamentalist sect and renounced polygamy more than a century ago.