CUSTER COUNTY, S.D. —A compound in South Dakota’s Black Hills that was owned by a secretive polygamous cult has a new owner.
The 140 acres compound near Pringle, S.D., was built in 2005 by Warren Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) who is serving a life sentence in prison for several sex crimes and two assault sex crimes involving children. Jeffs claimed these children were his brides. At the time of his arrest in 2011, he had 24 ‘wives’ that were underage.
Then on June 15, 2017, a brother, Lyle Jeffs, who was on the run from authorities, was arrested by the FBI in Yankton, S.D., where he had been living out of his car. Lyle had been on the run for around a year, evading charges of defrauding the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Seth Jeffs, the youngest of the Jeffs brothers, was also arrested in connection to the SNAP fraud.
In 2021, the compound was purchased for $750,000 at auction by three men: Andrew Chatwin, Patrick Pipkin and Claude Seth Cooke. The three are said to be former members of the FLDS.
The three men purchased the property under the ownership of Blue Mountain Ranch, LLC, which is based in Colorado, but lists its mailing address in Hildale, UT.
In 2022, Blue Mountain Ranch, LLC listed the property for sale.
It sold for $5,237,475 to SDR Training Center, a non-profit church registered in South Dakota on May 16, 2023. In the initial filing for SDR Training Center, three directors are listed: Hyrum Keddington, of Custer, Jewel Stone and LaDonna Nichols, Salt Lake City, UT.
The mortgage, dated May 19, records a private loan for $3,437,475. The lender is Blue Mountain Ranch, LLC, and borrower is the church, SDR Training Center.
SDR Training Center did not turn up in a search of tax-exempt organizations within the IRS database.
Parcels of the property include:
- Ten acres of baseland and an orchard
- Five acres with three tanks
- Five acres with a fourplex and a 9,855 square-foot log apartment building with 12 baths and 14 bedrooms
- Forty acres with a 6,362 square-foot building with 14 bedrooms and 14 bathrooms, and another smaller log home with four bedrooms and five bathrooms
- Twenty acres with a duplex that has 14 bedrooms and eight bathrooms
- Twenty acres with a 13,860 square-foot lodge that has 26 bedrooms, 26 bathrooms, as well as a meeting house with 15 conference rooms and 10 bathrooms
- Ten acres with a shed, roof cover and milk barn
- Ten acres, guard tower, cat walk, greenhouse, well houses, shop and lots of tanks
- Twenty acres with a house, 6,660 square-feet building with seven bedrooms, nine bathrooms, a two-car garage, warehouse/equipment building/storehouse and a poultry house