Warren Jeffs

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Warren Jeffs
Warrenjeffs.jpg
FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitive
ChargesRape as an accomplice (two counts)[1][2]
Description
BornWarren Steed Jeffs
(1955-12-03) December 3, 1955 (age 63)
Sacramento, California, United States
Height6 ft 3 in (191 cm)
OccupationLeader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
ParentsRulon Jeffs and Merilyn Steed
SpouseAs many as 87[3], including Naomi Jeffs (née Jessop)
Status
PenaltySentenced to life in prison plus 20 years
StatusConvicted[4]
Added6 May 2006[5]
Caught29 August 2006
Number482
Captured

Warren Steed Jeffs (born 3 December 1955) is the President of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS Church). In 2011 he was convicted of two felony counts of child sexual assault,[6] for which he is currently serving a sentence of life plus 20 years.[7]

In 2006, he was placed on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List for his flight from the charges that he had arranged illegal marriages between his adult male followers and underage girls in Utah.[5] In 2007, Arizona charged him with eight additional counts in two separate cases, including incest and sexual conduct with minors.[8]

In September 2007, Jeffs was convicted of two counts of rape as an accomplice,[9] for which he was sentenced to imprisonment for 10 years to life in Utah State Prison. This conviction was overturned by the Utah Supreme Court in 2010 due to flawed jury instructions.[10]

Jeffs was extradited to Texas,[11] where he was found guilty of sexual assault of a child (for sex with a 15-year-old he had married) and aggravated sexual assault against a child (for sex with a 12-year-old he had married), for which he was sentenced to life in prison plus 20 years and fined $10,000.[12]

Family and early life[edit]

Warren Steed Jeffs was born on 3 December 1955 to Rulon Jeffs (1909–2002) and Marilyn Steed (born circa 1935),[13] the daughter of Wilford Woodruff Steed (1904–1994).[14][unreliable source?] His father became the leader of the FLDS Church in 1986, and at his death, was survived by 19 or 20 wives and approximately 60 children.[15] Former church members claim that Jeffs himself has 87 wives.[3]

Jeffs was born more than two months prematurely in Sacramento, California.[16]

Jeffs grew up outside of Salt Lake City, Utah, and for more than 20 years he served as the principal of Alta Academy, an FLDS private school at the mouth of Little Cottonwood Canyon. Jeffs became principal in 1976, the year he turned 21.[17] He was known for being "a stickler for the rules and for discipline."[16]

Church leadership[edit]

Prior to his father's death, Jeffs held the position of counselor to the church leader. When his father died in 2002, Jeffs became his successor with his official title in the FLDS Church becoming "President and Prophet, Seer and Revelator" as well as "President of the Priesthood". The latter concerned being head of the organization of all adult male church members that were deemed worthy to hold the priesthood, a tradition carried on in the Latter Day Saint movement.[18][19]

Following his father's death, Jeffs told the high-ranking FLDS officials, "I won't say much, but I will say this—hands off my father's wives." When addressing his father's widows he said, "You women will live as if Father is still alive and in the next room." Within a week, Jeffs had married all but two of his father's wives; one refused to marry Jeffs and was subsequently prohibited from ever marrying again, while the other, Rebecca Wall, fled the compound. Wall is the older sister of Elissa Wall who wrote a memoir about her escape from FLDS, entitled Stolen Innocence.[20] She later married Jeffs' nephew, who is also the grandson of her deceased husband. Naomi Jessop was one of the first of Rulon Jeffs' former wives to marry Warren Jeffs, subsequently becoming his favorite wife and confidant. Jessop was with Jeffs at the time of his arrest.[21]

As the sole individual in the Church with the authority to perform marriages, Jeffs was responsible for assigning wives to husbands. He also had the authority to discipline male church members by "reassigning their wives, children and homes to another man."[22]

Until courts in Utah intervened, Jeffs controlled almost all of the land in Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah, which was part of a church trust, the United Effort Plan (UEP). The land has been estimated to be worth over $100 million. All UEP assets were put in the custody of the Utah court system pending further litigation. As the result of a November 2012 court decision, much of the UEP land is to be sold to those who live on it.[23]

In January 2004, Jeffs expelled a group of 20 men from the Short Creek Community, including the mayor, and reassigned their wives and children to other men in the community. Jeffs, like his predecessors, continued the standard FLDS and Mormon fundamentalist tenet that faithful men must follow what is known as the doctrine of plural marriage in order to attain exaltation in the afterlife. Jeffs specifically taught that a devoted church member is expected to have at least three wives in order to get into heaven, and the more wives a man has, the closer he is to heaven.[24]

Changes in location, leadership[edit]

Before his 2006 arrest, Jeffs had last been seen on 1 January 2005, near Eldorado, Texas, at the dedication ceremony of the foundation of a large and elaborate FLDS Church temple on the YFZ Ranch. The ranch came into the public eye on 7 April 2008 when Texas authorities raided it and took legal custody of 416 children; in response to a 31 March phone call alleging physical and sexual abuse on the ranch. The caller claimed to be a 16-year-old girl married to a 50-year-old man who had, at age 15, given birth to his child. Residents, however, told authorities that there was in fact no such girl, and the calls were ultimately traced to 33-year-old Rozita Swinton, totally unconnected to the FLDS Church, and known for repeated instances of filing false reports. Nevertheless, Texas authorities continued to investigate whether it was a hoax.[25] The children and women who were suspected of being minors were returned after Texas courts established that the state had not presented sufficient evidence of abuse to have removed all of the women, and children.

On 10 June 2006, Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard told the Deseret Morning News that he had heard from several sources that Jeffs had returned to Arizona, and had performed marriage ceremonies in a mobile home that was being used as a wedding chapel.[26]

On 27 March 2007, the Deseret Morning News reported that Jeffs had renounced his role as prophet of the FLDS Church in a conversation with his brother Nephi. Nephi quoted him as saying he was "the greatest of all sinners" and that God never called him to be a prophet.[27] Jeffs and his defense team had no comment on the statement.[citation needed] Jeffs presented a handwritten note to the judge at the end of trial on March 27 saying that he was not a prophet of the FLDS Church.[28]

On 7 November 2007, the Washington County Attorney's Office released video of jailhouse conversations between Nephi and Jeffs. In the videos, Jeffs renounces his prophethood, claiming that God had told him that if he revealed that he was not the rightful prophet, and was a "wicked man", he would still gain a place in the telestial kingdom.[29] Jeffs also admits to what he calls "immoral actions with a sister and a daughter" when he was 20 years old.[30] Other records show that while incarcerated, Jeffs tried to commit suicide by banging his head against the walls and trying to hang himself.[31]

Jeffs formally resigned as President of the FLDS Church effective 20 November 2007.[32] In an email to the Deseret Morning News, Jeffs' attorneys made the following statements: "Mr. Jeffs has asked that the following statement be released to the media and to members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints .... Mr. Jeffs resigned as President of the Corporation of the President of The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Inc." The statement does not address his ecclesiastical position as prophet of the FLDS Church, and many in the FLDS communities still regard him as the prophet and their current leader.[32] There are also reports that Jeffs admitted his position of prophet in the FLDS Church was a usurpation in a conversation to his brother, and declared that "Brother William E. Jessop has been the prophet since [my] Father's passing", though Jeffs' attorneys have claimed he misspoke.[33] In early 2011, Jeffs retook legal control of the denomination.[6][34]

Sex crime allegations and FBI's Most Wanted[edit]

In July 2004, Warren Jeffs' nephew, Brent Jeffs, filed a lawsuit against Warren alleging that in the late 1980s Warren had anally raped him in the Salt Lake Valley compound then owned by the FLDS Church. Brent Jeffs said he was five or six years old at the time, and that Warren Jeffs' brothers, also named in the lawsuit, participated in the abuse. Two of Warren Jeffs' other nephews made similar claims. Brent Jeffs' brother Clayne committed suicide after accusing Warren Jeffs of sexually assaulting him as a child.[35] Two of Jeffs' children, a son and a daughter, have publicly claimed that they were sexually abused by him.[36]

In June 2005, Jeffs was charged with sexual assault on a minor and with conspiracy to commit sexual misconduct with a minor for allegedly arranging, in April 2001, a marriage between a then-14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old first cousin, Allen. The young woman, Elissa Wall (then only known as "Jane Doe IV"), testified that she begged Rulon Jeffs, known to her as "Uncle Rulon", to let her wait until she was older, or choose another man for her. The elder Jeffs was apparently "sympathetic", but his son was not, and she was forced to go through with the marriage. Wall alleged that her new husband raped her repeatedly and that she repeatedly miscarried. She eventually left Allen and the community. Jeffs faced the above charges in Mohave County, Arizona. In July 2005, the Arizona Attorney General's office distributed wanted posters offering $10,000 for information leading to Jeffs' arrest and conviction.

In late 2005, Jeffs was put on the FBI's Most Wanted Fugitives list, offering $60,000 for information leading to his arrest. On 20 May 2006, Jeffs was featured on an episode of the television program America's Most Wanted.[37]

Around this time, Jeffs' brother, Seth, was arrested under suspicion of harboring a fugitive. During a routine traffic stop on 28 October 2005, in Pueblo County, Colorado, police found nearly $142,000 in cash, about $7,000 worth of prepaid debit cards, and personal records. During Seth Jeffs' court case, FBI agent Andrew Stearns testified that Seth had told him that he did not know where his older brother was and that he would not reveal his whereabouts if he did. He was convicted of harboring a fugitive on 1 May 2006.[38] On 14 July 2006, he was sentenced to three years' probation and a $2,500 fine.[39]

On 5 April 2006, Utah issued an arrest warrant for Jeffs on felony charges of accomplice rape of a teenage girl between 14 and 18 years old.[2] Shortly after, on 6 May 2006, the FBI placed Jeffs on its Top Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.[40] He was the 482nd fugitive listed on that list. In addition, the reward was raised to $100,000, and the public was warned that "Jeffs may travel with a number of loyal and armed bodyguards".[41]

On 27 May 2006, Bruce Wisan, the court-appointed accountant in charge of the FLDS Church's trust fund, filed civil suits against Jeffs. Wisan claimed that Jeffs is responsible for "fleecing trust assets". Along with church leaders, former trustees Truman Barlow, LeRoy Jeffs, James Zitting, and William E. Jessop were also named as defendants. "We feel that they've taken things from the trust," Wisan said. "Their actions have caused harm to the trust."[42]

On 8 June 2006, Jeffs returned to Colorado City to perform more "child-bride marriages."[43]

On 27 May 2008, The Smoking Gun website released images of Jeffs with two underage wives, one of whom was 12 years old, celebrating one-year anniversaries in 2005 and 2006.[44]

Arrest, trial and conviction[edit]

On 28 August 2006, around 9 pm Pacific time, Jeffs was pulled over on Interstate 15 in Clark County, Nevada, by Highway Trooper Eddie Dutchover because temporary license plates on a red 2007 Cadillac Escalade were not visible. One of Jeffs' wives, Naomie, and his brother, Isaac, were with him, and Jeffs had four computers, 16 cell phones, disguises (including three wigs and 12 pairs of sunglasses), and more than $55,000 in cash. His wife and brother were questioned and released.[45][46][47]

In a Nevada court hearing on 31 August 2006, Jeffs waived extradition and agreed to return to Utah[48] to face two first-degree felony charges of accomplice rape.[2] Each charge carries an indeterminate penalty of five years to life in prison. Arizona prosecutors were next in line to try Jeffs. He was held in the Washington County, Utah jail, pending an 23 April 2007 trial on two counts of rape, as an accomplice for his role in arranging a 2002 marriage between a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old first cousin.[49]

Jeffs was believed to be leading his group from jail and a Utah state board expressed dissatisfaction in dealing with Hildale police, believing that many members of the force had ties to Jeffs, so therefore did not cooperate.[50] In May and July 2007, he was indicted in Arizona on eight counts, including sexual conduct with a minor and incest.[8]

Jeffs' trial began on 11 September 2007. The trial was held in St. George, Utah, with Judge James L. Shumate presiding. Jeffs was housed in Utah's Purgatory Correctional Facility in solitary confinement for the duration. At the culmination of the trial, on 25 September 2007, Jeffs was found guilty of two counts of being an accomplice to rape.[51] He was sentenced to prison for 10 years to life and began serving his sentence at the Utah State Prison.[52] On 27 July 2010, the Utah Supreme Court, citing deficient jury instructions, reversed Jeffs' convictions and ordered a new trial. The court found that the trial judge should have told the jury that Jeffs could not be convicted unless he intended for Elissa's husband to engage in nonconsensual sex with her.[53] Elissa subsequently wrote an autobiography on her experiences in the FLDS Church and with Jeffs entitled Stolen Innocence. The book was co-authored with former New York Times journalist Lisa Pulitzer.[54]

Jeffs was also scheduled to be tried in Arizona.[55] He had entered a not-guilty plea on 27 February 2008, to sex charges stemming from the arranged marriages of three teenage girls to older men.[56] He was transported to the Mohave County, Arizona jail to await trial. On 9 June 2010, a state judge, at the request of Mohave County prosecutor Matt Smith, dismissed all charges with prejudice. Smith said that the Arizona victims no longer wanted to testify, and that Jeffs had spent almost two years in jail awaiting trial — more than he would have received had he been convicted. Combined with the pending charges against Jeffs in Texas, Smith concluded that "it would be impractical and unnecessary" to try Jeffs in Arizona. Jeffs was then returned to Utah; at the time, his appeal of the 2007 conviction was still pending.[57]

On 9 August 2011, Jeffs was convicted on two counts of sexual assault of a child[58] and sentenced to life in prison.[12][59] Warren Jeffs, Texas Department of Criminal Justice #01726705, will be eligible for parole on 22 July 2038.[60]

Prison life[edit]

On 9 July 2008, Jeffs was taken from jail in Arizona to a Nevada hospital for what the sheriff described as a serious medical problem. Mohave County Sheriff Tom Sheahan did not specify Jeffs' medical problem, but said it was serious enough to move him about 100 miles from Kingman Regional Medical Center to the Nevada hospital.[61]

Jeffs has engaged in lengthy hunger strikes, which his doctors and attorneys have claimed were for spiritual reasons. In August 2009, Superior Court Judge Steve Conn ordered that Jeffs be force fed. On 29 August 2011, Jeffs was taken to East Texas Medical Center, Tyler, Texas, and hospitalized in critical condition under a medically induced coma after excessive fasting. Officials were not sure how long he would remain hospitalized, but expected Jeffs to live.[62]

Jeffs is incarcerated at the Louis C. Powledge Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice near Palestine, Texas.[63][60]

In December 2012, Jeffs predicted that the world would end before 2013 and called for his followers to prepare for the end.[64]

Jesus Christ Message to All Nations[edit]

While incarcerated at Louis C. Powledge Unit, Jeffs composed a book purported to be revelations from Jesus Christ delivered to Jeffs. This book, titled Jesus Christ Message to All Nations, includes several directives to set Jeffs free.[65][66][67]

Views[edit]

Statements on black people[edit]

In 2005, Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report published the following statements made by Jeffs:

  • "The black race is the people through which the devil has always been able to bring evil unto the earth."
  • Cain was "cursed with a black skin and he is the father of the Negro people. He has great power, can appear and disappear. He is used by the devil, as a mortal man, to do great evils."
  • "Today you can see a black man with a white woman, et cetera. A great evil has happened on this land because the devil knows that if all the people have Negro blood, there will be nobody worthy to have the priesthood."
  • "If you marry a person who has connections with the Negro, you would become cursed."[68][69]

Popular culture[edit]

In print[edit]

  • Krakauer, Jon (2004). Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith (1st ed.). Anchor Books. ISBN 1-4000-3280-6.
  • Wall, Elissa; Pulitzer, Lisa (2008). Stolen Innocence: My Story of Growing Up in a Polygamous Sect, Becoming a Teenage Bride, and Breaking Free of Warren Jeffs. New York: William Morrow. ISBN 978-0-06-162801-6. An autobiography about a girl inside the FLDS Church and her experiences in the community and her escape as well as her accounts in the Jeffs trial.
  • Singular, Stephen (7 July 2009). When Men Become Gods: Mormon Polygamist Warren Jeffs, His Cult of Fear, and the Women Who Fought Back. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-0-312-37248-4. A book about Jeffs and the FLDS Church, which chronicles the details of Jeffs' rise to power, the activities of church members in Colorado City and Hildale and their trials.
  • Jeffs, Brent W.; Szalavitz, Maia (2009). Lost Boy: The True Story of One Man's Exile from a Polygamist Cult and His Brave Journey to Reclaim His Life. New York: Broadway Books. ISBN 978-0-7679-3177-9. An autobiography concerning his youth and interactions with his uncle Warren.
  • Brower, Sam (2011). Prophet's Prey: My Seven-Year Investigation into Warren Jeffs and the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints. New York: Bloomsbury. ISBN 978-1-60819-275-5. Private Investigator Brower's account of his research about Jeffs and the FLDS Church and pursuit of justice for them.
  • Weyermann, Debra (2011). Answer Them Nothing: Bringing Down the Polygamous Empire of Warren Jeffs. Chicago: Chicago Review Press. ISBN 978-1-56976-531-9. Documents the history of the FLDS Church, including Jeffs' role.

Films and documentaries[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  6. ^ a b Wagner, Dennis (24 February 2011). "Jailed sect leader retakes legal control of church". USA Today. McLean, Virginia: Gannett Company. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  7. ^ The FLDS Church was founded in the early-20th century when the founders deemed the renunciation of polygamy by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) to be apostate; there is no affiliation between the FLDS Church and the LDS Church: "Polygamy". Newsroom. LDS Church. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
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  24. ^ Cooper, Anderson, ed. (May 2006). "Anderson Cooper Blog 360°". CNN. Retrieved 9 May 2019.
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    Sanchez, Rick (May 10, 2006). "Fort Knox has nothing on polygamist compound". Cooper 2006.
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    Adams, Brooke (November 30, 2007). "What Warren said to William". Adams 2007.
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  38. ^ "Polygamist's Brother Pleads Guilty to Harboring a Fugitive". KSL Broadcasting. Associated Press. 1 May 2006. Retrieved 13 May 2019.
  39. ^ United States Attorney's Office District of Colorado (14 July 2006). "Seth Steed Jeffs Sentenced for Harboring Fugitive Brother". www.justice.gov. Retrieved 13 May 2019.
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  41. ^ FBI (June 23, 2006). "America's Most Wanted". njlawman.com. Archived from the original on June 23, 2006. Retrieved 11 May 2011.
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  58. ^ Weber, Paul J. (7 August 2011). "Harsh rules, sex assault described inside Jeffs' sect". Detroit Free Press. Associated Press. Archived from the original on 7 August 2011. Retrieved 14 May 2019.
  59. ^ CNN Wire Staff (6 August 2011). "Nephew, niece allege polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs abused them". CNN. Archived from the original on 21 January 2012. Retrieved 14 May 2019.
  60. ^ a b Texas Department of Criminal Justice. "Offender Information Search: Jeffs, Warren Steed". offender.tdcj.texas.gov. Retrieved 15 May 2019.
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  62. ^ Graczyk, Michael (29 August 2011). "Convicted polygamist leader in medically induced coma". Peoria Journal Star. Associated Press. Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  63. ^ Parker, Kolten (17 March 2014). "Polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs hospitalized in Texas". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  64. ^ Rosenlof, Celeste Tholen (28 December 2012). "Warren Jeffs tells FLDS faithful world will end before 2013". KSL News. Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  65. ^ Jeffs, Warren; Christ, Jesus (2012). Jesus Christ Message to All Nations. Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. ISBN 9781937271169. Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  66. ^ Jeffs, Warren (2012). Jesus Christ Message to All Nations. Colorado City, Ariz.: Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
  67. ^ "Warren Jeffs: Jesus Christ, Message to All Nations". Mormonism Research Ministry. 10 January 2014. Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  68. ^ "The Prophet Speaks". Intelligence Report (117). Southern Poverty Law Center. Spring 2005. Archived from the original on 3 February 2010.
  69. ^ "Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints". Southern Poverty Law Center. Retrieved 15 May 2019.
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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints titles
Preceded by
Rulon T. Jeffs
Prophet
2002–present
Succeeded by
incumbent
With disputed interruptions by:
Corporation of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints titles
Preceded by
Rulon T. Jeffs
President
2002 – December 4, 2007
Succeeded by
Wendell L. Nielsen
Preceded by
Wendell L. Nielsen
President
January 28, 2011 – present
Succeeded by
incumbent