May 17, 2006 -- The rival of polygamist leader Warren Jeffs, wanted in Utah and Arizona for allegedly arranging marriages of underage girls, said the fugitive on the FBI's most wanted list could be hiding in Canada.
At a news conference at his home in Bountiful, British Columbia, polygamist leader Winston Blackmore speculated that Jeffs would be "the dumbest person if he weren't in Canada," but he did not say whether he knew where Jeffs was.
Blackmore was formerly the bishop of Bountiful and in the hierarchy of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a sect that broke away from the Mormon Church after it banned polygamy. But Blackmore was excommunicated by Jeffs in 2002 after protesting some of his activities, according to ABC affiliate KTVX in Salt Lake City.
Blackmore said he broke with Jeffs because the polygamist leader was tearing families apart, kicking husbands and fathers out of the community and marrying off underage girls.
The Bountiful community is now divided almost evenly between Blackmore followers and Jeffs followers, and Blackmore described their split as something like a family feud.
"If he was in a vehicle, I'd look the other way. We are extended family," he said, adding, "the fact that he's a federal fugitive, my apologies to the FBI, is not our problem."
At the same time, he sought to distance himself from Jeffs' actions and emphasized that not all polygamist leaders are alike.
"We are not him," he said. "And he does not represent the fundamentals of our faith."
But that hasn't kept Blackmore, who reportedly has 28 wives and as many as 100 children, out of trouble with Canadian authorities. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have launched an investigation into his activities, and though it would not comment, Blackmore said they are looking to charge him with polygamy.
"It's persecution as far as we're concerned," Blackmore said. "[Jeffs] predicted that our family would be broken up and ruined. Canada seems to want to help him fulfill that prediction."
Three of Blackmore's wives, all American citizens, have been ordered to leave Canada for violating immigration laws. But Blackmore remained defiant, saying that all the children he's had with those wives were born in Canada, and he plans to appeal the order in court.
"No, Canada," he said, "We're just not going to leave our children."
ABC affiliate KTVX, The Associated Press and the Canadian Press contributed to this report.