An Arizona couple is suing officials in two cities for allegedly cutting them off from basic utilities under orders of the polygamist Fundamentalist Church of of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), KUTV-TV reported on Friday.
Ron and Jinjer Cooke’s suit claims that they have been denied running water and electricity after moving to Colorado City, Arizona. The nearby town of Hilldale, Utah, is also named in the suit. The trial begain in Phoenix, Arizona, this week.
“We thought we lived in America, and then we moved here,” Ron Cooke told KUTV in January 2013. “This isn’t America right here.”
The Cookes argue that because they are not members of the FLDS, the Twin City Water Authority, which manages the water supply for both towns, did not give them a water hookup for their home, forcing them to refill a large water tank though weekly trips to a water plant. They also say they were denied electricity and sewage hookups because they were not in the church. Their living situation was complicated, the suit says, by the fact that Ron Cooke is disabled.
The Salt Lake Tribune reported that the Cookes’ attorneys said in court this week that the couple’s pipes were broken by vandals, forcing them to “haul their own human excrement away” for two years.
Jeff Matura, who is representing Colorado City in the case, told KUTV that the Cookes have been denied a water hookup because they will not follow a Twin City requirement that customers contribute as much water to the cities’ shared system as they use.
“The towns have said since 2008, ‘Hey, comply with our policy and we’ll hook you up, but if you don’t comply with the policy, we’re not going to hook you up,'” Matura told KUTV. Matura also denied the couple’s claim that the church exerts influence over city policy.
However, the Tribune reported on Thursday that two witnesses testified that they conducted surveillance on orders of the church, with one of them, Keith Barlow, saying he was also assigned to monitor the Cookes and find information that the city could use to deny their requests for water.
“They moved into the community and they needed water,” Barlow was quoted as saying. “And we were watching them to somehow prevent them from getting water.”
Watch KUTV’s report, aired on Friday, below.