Entries in Polygamy (4)


Charity Helps Those Leaving Polygamy Sect

TRENT NELSON/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- On Saturday, 20/20 is broadcasting the story of the Steed family breaking away from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), the polygamous sect whose leader and prophet is Warren Jeffs. Without money or resources, the Steeds turned to Holding Out HELP, a non-governmental group that assists those seeking to leave polygamy.

The organization provides access to housing, food, clothing, counseling, mentoring, job training, education and referral services. It is one of very few organizations that specialize in helping members of polygamous communities.

Since Jeffs went to prison, the number of people coming to Holding Out HELP for help has quadrupled.

“We have entire families coming out, and many individuals. They aren’t equipped to deal with the outside world,” Holding Out HELP executive director Tonia Tewel said.

Most of the individuals who leave their polygamist community are lacking in education, job training, and basic life skills, according to Tewell. Because they are shunned if they decide to leave, they often have no one to turn to.

“They don’t know how to function in the real world,” Tewel said. “They don’t know how to make their own choices, because they have never had to face this. A lot of them don’t even have a high school education.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Warren Jeffs' Wife Escapes Polygamist Community

TRENT NELSON/AFP/Getty Images(COLORADO CITY, Ariz.) -- One of the wives of polygamist leader Warren Jeffs, who is currently serving a life sentence for child sexual assault, escaped the confines of the isolated Arizona community where his 85 other wives live.

Arizona authorities say the 25-year-old woman who fled the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which was led by Jeffs, is now undergoing counseling and psychiatric care at a women's shelter. She was reportedly barefoot when she was found.

The secluded community of the church in Colorado City, Ariz., contains about 5,000 residents and is a world where outsiders are not welcomed.

Willie Jeesop, a former FLDS spokesman who was kicked out of the religion by Jeffs, said that the unidentified woman was under duress when she sought refuge with Jeffs in Colorado City.

Carolyn Jessop is a former Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints member who also fled polygamy and Colorado City and went on to write the book "Escape," which looks back on the events that led her to break free from the oppressive world of polygamy. She says that the woman's need to flee the Church indicates that she was under great duress.

"Things have had to be pretty serious for her, to the point where death was better than living the way she was living ," Jessop said. "She must have reached a point where it just didn't matter anymore and was really to take whatever risks and consequences if she didn't make it ."

While the newly escaped woman undergoes counseling and therapy, her husband Jeffs, 55, continues his life sentence after being found guilty in August of forcing two teenage girls into "spiritual marriage," and fathering a child with one of them when she was 15.

On August 29 it was reported that Jeffs had fallen into a coma after fasting for three days. Three weeks later it was reported that he was discharged from the hospital and would receive further treatment in a prison infirmary.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Warren Jeffs Has History of Self-Inflicting Harm in Jail

TRENT NELSON/AFP/Getty Images(HOUSTON) -- Warren Jeffs' condition at a Texas prison hospital has improved from critical to serious, but that might not stop the polygamist sect leader from inflicting further illness and injury on himself in the future, according to one Jeffs expert.

"I don't think Warren wants to be alive," said Sam Brower, author of the Jeffs biography Prophet's Prey.  "He's going to continue to be a problem for Texas authorities."

Jeffs, 55, was hospitalized Sunday for illness at least partly related to his refusal to eat and drink, Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokeswoman Michelle Lyons said Monday.  Jeffs told guards he had stopped eating since his conviction of sexual assault of minors earlier this month, she said.

Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, was sentenced to life in prison for the assaults on two girls, ages 12 and 15, whom he claimed were his spiritual wives.

Lyons disputed earlier reports that Jeffs was in a coma, but confirmed that he had been sedated.  Jeffs was transferred from a public hospital, where he was taken when he was in critical condition, to a prison medical center Tuesday.

The sect leader has caused harm to himself while incarcerated before, including fasting, banging his head against a wall, trying to hang himself with his pajamas, and kneeling for such long periods of time that he developed hernias on his knees.

While serving time in the Washington County jail, he tried to hang himself and threw himself against cell walls headfirst.  He was also hospitalized for dehydration and depression, according to court documents.

In 2009, he was temporarily force-fed while in an Arizona jail.  Officials put a feeding tube into his nose and would strap him to his bed so that he could not kneel any longer, according to Brower.  Blood from where the feeding tube was removed was visible in photos from when Jeffs was moved from Arizona to Utah, Brower said.

"He's setting himself up to be a martyr.  He doesn't want his followers to know he's trying to kill himself, so if he calls it fasting, his followers can say he was on a fast and God took him," Brower said.

Jason Clark, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, said that Jeffs would remain at the prison hospital until he could return to Texas state prison in Palestine.  He is scheduled to go on trial again in October for charges of bigamy, which could carry a 99 year sentence.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Warren Jeffs in Coma, May Not Survive: Source

TRENT NELSON/AFP/Getty Images(HOUSTON) -- Warren Jeffs, the polygamous sect leader and convicted child rapist, is in a coma and may not survive, a source close to Jeffs tells ABC News.

Jeffs, 55, had been fasting for the past three days and became so weak that doctors at the Texas prison where he is serving a life sentence induced a coma, according to the source.

The leader of a radical polygamist sect of Mormonism known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints (FLDS), is scheduled to go on trial a second time in October to face charges of first-degree bigamy. Conviction would be punishable by up to 99 years or life in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.

Jeffs was moved last Tuesday to a solitary cell at the Powledge Unit in Palestine, Texas, because of the large amount of media coverage surrounding his case, prison officials said.

He is now being treated at the East Texas Medical Facility in Tyler, Texas, the nearest major medical center to the Powledge Unit, Michelle Lyons, spokesperson for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, told ABC News.

Lyons said Jeffs is in "critical but stable condition," but she added, "I cannot confirm that he is in a coma."

Prison officials are prohibited from releasing the specific medical conditions for which Jeffs is currently receiving treatment due to the federal health privacy policies.

"He did indicate to staff that he was fasting, but he is currently being treated for other medical ailments and conditions," she said of Jeffs.

A Texas jury found Jeffs guilty Aug. 4 of forcing two teenage girls into "spiritual marriage," and fathering a child with one of them when she was 15.

He was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 45 years. Jeffs must serve at least 35 years of a life sentence on one of the child sex charges, and at least 10 years on the other.

During the trial, prosecutors presented DNA evidence showing Jeffs fathered a child with a 15-year-old girl who lived at a Texas compound raided by police in 2008 where Jeffs ran the FLDS sect. Prosecutors also played audio recordings of a sexual encounter between Jeffs and a 12-year-old girl.

Jeffs accused police of discriminating against the West Texas compound because his followers looked and acted differently than mainstream society. Officials denied it.

Jeffs' sect broke off from the mainstream Mormon Church 72 years ago. His 10,000 followers across North America consider him a prophet who serves as God's spokesman on Earth.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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