'Sister Wives' Stars Investigated; Felony Charges Possible

The polygamist family featured on TLC could face bigamy charges.

September 28, 2010, 1:24 PM

Sept. 28, 2010— -- The polygamist family featured on TLC's "Sister Wives" is now being investigated for a possible charge of bigamy, a third-degree felony in Utah.

Police in Lehi, Utah said Monday that TLC's announcement of the show sparked the inquiry, and they have been checking on salesman Kody Brown and his four wives -- Meri, Christine, Janelle and Robyn -- before the show's premiere on Sunday, People.com reported.

The Browns recently sat down with ABC News' Dan Harris on "Nightline" for an intimate look inside the family's home and their lives as polygamists before the "Sister Wives" premiere.

When Harris asked the patriarch and his wives about the possibility that their controversial lifestyle might get them into legal trouble now that they've gone public, Brown admitted that the family had weighed that and all five agreed it was a risk.

"But what we'd rather say is, 'raising children in a closed society could cause a lot more damage than any kind of legal process,'" Brown's third wife, Christine, said.

"I would want my children to grow up and say, 'he's my dad, and this is my family," Robyn, the newest wife, chimed in.

Brown has 13 children and three stepchildren from his four marriages. Wives Meri, Christine and Janelle all live in the family's big house with their kids. Robyn lives in a smaller house nearby.

"We aren't saying this is for everybody," Brown's second wife, Janelle, said. "We don't even recommend it for anybody who's not interested."

Many Americans have seen polygamists portrayed as secret societies, with wives wearing prairie dresses, young girls being abused and church leaders, such as Warren Jeffs, standing trial.

The Brown family said they hope to reverse that negative view through their upcoming series.

"We have so many stereotypes and so much bad media about this lifestyle," Robyn said. "There's not abuse in our home … we don't have under-aged brides. We don't have all the other things that are actually very wrong and our children are happy."

Kody said he has been with his wives for 16 years and his unusual family grew out of love and his relationships are all based on his Mormon faith.

Kody Said He Sleeps in a Different Wife's Bed Each Night

"I just fell in love, and then I fell in love again, and then again," he explained. "My belief kind of pushed me in that direction. But in retrospect, I would go all the way back saying I do it for love because this is something that's come together out of love."

Whether the Brown's way of life is right or wrong, it doesn't come without its challenges at home: Providing and caring for such a large family on three incomes -- Kody and two of his wives work -- as well as inter-personal relationships.

Brown said he sleeps in a different wife's bed every night, and admitted that there are times when he questions his polygamist lifestyle.

"I have clothes everywhere so I kind of live in the whole house," he said. "I'll shower here and then I'll have to run upstairs twice to get clothes that I can't find."

"He's very unselfish," Janelle added. "He's always giving to the kids or to the wives."

The wives said there are some upsides to being in this kind of relationship. Their kids share toys and chores, and the wives said they have peace of mind knowing that someone is always there to look after them.

"Having the support system of each other, as we work together, it just makes each of us better," one of the wives said.

Still, the wives admit that their relationship with Brown and each other doesn't come without jealousy.

"[It] happens, but then there's also the times that I know the other wives will look at the situation and look at me, well, I'm the one who is getting all of the attention," Meri, the first wife, said. "It kind of goes both ways."

Christine agreed. "We all realize that it's not just our relationship with him that matters, it's all of their relationships with him," she said. "It's all of our relationships with each other … with the family. … That's what has to happen in order to have a functioning family."

The jealousy issue became more complicated when the number of wives expanded from three to four after Kody and Meri met Robyn through the family's church.

Wives Say Their Children Are 'Proud' of Their Big Family

"It was a chance meeting," Robyn said. "Meri and I started talking and texting, and it kind of just went from there."

Despite its challenges, Brown and his wives all strongly believe that their living situation is a good place to raise their 16 children.

"We feel like our children are very well balanced," Christine said. "They're proud of their big family and they love telling their friends about it."

"They'll be very decent citizens," Kody added.

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