A southern Black Hills compound inhabited by members of a polygamous religious sect was sold Thursday.
The Custer County Sheriff’s Office conducted the sale at the county courthouse in Custer with about 40 people in attendance.
The bidding started at $500,000 and ended at $750,000. Three former members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints were the winning bidders: Patrick Pipkin, Andrew Chatwin and Claude Seth Cooke.
Pipkin, of Utah, spoke for the group.
“I do want to let people know that this corruption of this church is coming to an end,” Pipkin said, “and we are part of that side that’s helping to correct and make a difference here.”
The leader of the FLDS, Warren Jeffs, was convicted a decade ago of sexually assaulting girls he took as wives. He’s serving life in prison in Texas.
The FLDS began building up its South Dakota compound almost 20 years ago. It covers 140 acres near the edge of Red Canyon, about 15 miles southwest of Pringle. There are several dorm-like structures, other buildings, gardens, and a guard tower on the grounds. It’s all surrounded by fences and berms.
The three winning bidders don’t actually have to pay for the property. They are owed almost $2 million in judgments from a lawsuit they won against the FLDS several years ago, after the three men were illegally detained by FLDS members during a dispute in the sect’s home community of Short Creek, along the Arizona-Utah border.
A judge ordered the sale of the South Dakota compound to help pay the judgments. Because nobody bid higher than the three men Thursday at the sale, the property will be awarded to them.
But the sale isn’t final yet. The FLDS has a one-year redemption period to pay off the sale price and keep the property.
Pipkin said he doesn’t have any plans for the property yet. There are reportedly 20 FLDS members living in the compound who will have to vacate if the sale is finalized.
-Contact reporter Seth Tupper by email.