From reports out of Utah, it sounds like two women swapped marital skills for martial arts. And many media swapped solid substance for juicy soundbites.
Here's an early report from The Guardian. Yep, the story even got attention in London.
Two armed “polygamist women” dressed like “ninjas” were subdued by a sword-wielding man during a home invasion, according to police in suburban Utah.
Police said the two women, aged 18 and 22, were attacking the home of a witness and victim in a criminal child sex assault case against a man the women called their “husband”.
The women “violently attacked one of the adult males in the house who came to see who was coming,” Ian Adams of the West Jordan police department told the Guardian.
“Another adult male joined the fray in defense of the first male victim. He was armed with a sword, and using a sword … and with the other male [was] able to subdue the two women until police arrived and took them into custody.”
The account on the same day by the Salt Lake Tribune was more lucid:
The suspects and the home’s occupants are all part of an extended family, he said. The women claim to both be married to an uncle of a child living at the home.
The uncle has been accused of sexually abusing that child and is in jail awaiting trial on the alleged offense, according to police.
Five days later, the two women were charged, and outlets like The Deseret News and Fox 13 divulged their names. One of those was as colorful as the rest of the case: Raven Blackwing, aka Madeline Baker, aka Raven Baker. (The other suspect's name, Tylynn Southwick, wasn’t as memorable.)
As ABC 4 and other media reported, the women were accused of going after a woman in the house who was to testify against their man, Kain Blackwing, the defendant in the child abuse case.
Problems? Oh, you know, if you're even reading GetReligion: lack of religious input. Here we have an accusation of violent crime involving alleged polygamy, in a state dominated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- which, of course, still gets occasional accusations of favoring plural marriage. And no one in the church gets to distance it from the sordid story.
The Guardian story does say that the LDS church banned polygamy in the 1890s. But with all the tiny but newsmaking breakaway groups in Utah that do smile on the practice -- and with that cable "reality" show Sister Wives, mentioned in the article -- a live quote from a church official would have been an asset. And from my experience, the Mormons are especially eager to set that record straight.
For most outlets, the whole case was just too juicy to dig for insight. Some, like Raw Story and the New York Daily News, even ran stock photos of a woman in ninja garb, although the latter took care to say she wasn’t one of the defendants.
Before we exit, though, here's a minor point forThe Guardian, which did some of its own reporting. Someone there, for instance, interviewed Ian Adams of the West Jordan police force, rather than merely pasting together other accounts, as did The Daily Mail and The Independent.
Ian Adams, the police spokesman, had it right: “I have a feeling that as this investigation progresses we’ll have more details. It’s still kind of fresh.” And you can bet that The Guardian -- and a host of tabloid newspapers -- will be back for more.
But indepth reporting on how this is different from mainstream Mormon beliefs? On that, I wouldn't bet.