Son of polygamous cult chief Warren Jeffs speaks out in doc: ‘We were brainwashed’

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Warren Jeffson can vividly recall the second he briefly stepped out of the Craving for Zion ranch, which was run by his father, polygamous cult chief Warren Jeffs.

Jeffson was about seven years previous when he first noticed a freeway in Eldorado, Texas. It was his first glimpse into an outdoor world he had by no means skilled earlier than.

“I saw cars zooming down the highway — it was crazy,” he recalled to Every day Publish Digital. “I had never seen anything like that. I was just so enthralled with the idea of going 40 miles an hour. It was like going to another planet.”

Jeffson, alongside together with his mom Vicki Thompson and his sister Sarah, have come ahead to share their story about life contained in the polygamous denomination in Peacock’s new true-crime documentary, “Preaching Evil: A Wife on the Run with Warren Jeffs.”

Warren Jeffs is the subject of a new true-crime documentary on Peacock.

Warren Jeffs is the topic of a brand new true-crime documentary on Peacock.
(Picture by Steve Marcus-Pool/Getty Photographs)

 It explores how Jeffs rose to energy throughout the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) throughout the ‘90s, and how he was arrested and convicted following accusations of assault, rape and child abuse.

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The four-part series features a sit-down with Naomi Jessop, one of Jeffs’ ex-wives who served as his private scribe, in addition to interviews with the authorities concerned within the raid of the compound and the attorneys that later introduced Jeffs to justice.

“I think what really compelled me to get our story out there is, unfortunately, there’s a lot of people that get involved in these types of environments and go down a similar path,” Jeffson defined. “We were very sheltered. I didn’t see any outside world perspectives. And when I came out into this world, I wanted to experience all those things, but I really wanted to show people that, after I left, I didn’t have to go down any harmful roads. I found a way to take those negative experiences that I’ve gone through and turn them into a more positive future for me.”

Warren Jeffs with Vicki Thompson, Wendell Jeffson's mother.

Warren Jeffs with Vicki Thompson, Wendell Jeffson’s mom.
(Peacock)

Polygamy is a legacy of the early teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, however the mainstream church deserted the apply in 1890 and now strictly prohibits it. The FLDS broke away from the Mormon church and was fashioned in order that members might proceed practising plural marriage. It was headquartered on the Utah-Arizona border. Jeffson’s grandfather, Rulon T. Jeffs, took energy in 1986 and dominated till his demise in 2002 at age 92. He left behind an estimated 75 widows and 65 kids.

Rulon Jeffs passed away in 2002 at age 92. He left behind an estimated 75 widows and 65 children.

Rulon Jeffs handed away in 2002 at age 92. He left behind an estimated 75 widows and 65 kids.
(Picture By Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Publish by way of Getty Photographs)

Following Rulon’s demise, Jeffs took over because the group’s prophet. Within the FLDS, it’s believed the prophet can communicate on to God and direct which male members can enter heaven. The prophet may carry out marriages and assign wives to their husbands. In pleasing the prophet, loyal members are rewarded extra wives, who “belong” to their spouses for eternity, NPR reported. Members believed that every man will need to have at the very least three wives.

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“I didn’t know any differently,” Jeffson mentioned of his childhood. “You can’t compare the life I had with the life I have now. It’s like I was blindfolded without even knowing I had the blindfold on. It’s all you know. I was happy, to be honest with you. I was never abused physically. Emotionally – that’s another story. We were brainwashed. But … I had a great work ethic. I had a lot of siblings. And, of course, I had a great mom. I lived in a bubble.”

Jeffson mentioned, rising up, he had a superb relationship together with his father. However as soon as he turned the chief of the FLDS, “that relationship was eliminated.” It’s believed that Jeffs had about 78 wives and at the very least 60 kids.

“He didn’t spend time with me,” mentioned Jeffson. “I didn’t have an opportunity to bond with him at all. It got to the point where I would only see him once every few months. And when I would see him, it’d be very brief … It just felt like he was passing through. 

Wendell Jeffson, who was cast out of FLDS at age 14, shared his account on 'Preaching Evil'.

Wendell Jeffson, who was solid out of FLDS at age 14, shared his account on ‘Preaching Evil’.
(Court docket)

“As I got a little bit older, he started to write to me a few more times, but we never had a strong relationship. Unfortunately, negative things were usually written. There were some positive things, but it was usually about something I’ve done wrong.”

Jeffson mentioned he would contribute to the workload as Jeffs constructed what he described as Craving for Zion. At 4 years previous, he would choose weeds out of the flower beds and work within the gardens. He would clear bogs, assist make breakfast and make sure the residence was tidy always.

“I grew up thinking we were building a haven where we would be the only ones left, and everyone else would be wiped off from the face of the Earth,” mentioned Jeffson.

At the same time as a baby, Jeffson questioned his religion.

It is believed that Warren Jeffs had about 78 wives and at least 60 children.

It’s believed that Warren Jeffs had about 78 wives and at the very least 60 kids.
(Picture by Jud Burkett/Bloomberg by way of Getty Photographs)

“Race was huge in the FLDS,” he mentioned. “We were taught very strongly that Black people were very evil. I remember, at a young age, I had to go off the compound and go to the hospital, which most people didn’t have an opportunity to do. And we were treated extremely well by different people, including some Black people. I began to wonder at that point, ‘Why were they so bad?’ I also wondered why I couldn’t have short sleeves, why there were certain foods I couldn’t eat, like candy. And toys – I wanted toys like any kid. We didn’t have those things.”

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In 2006, Jeffs, who was on the FBI’s Prime 10 Most Needed Checklist, was arrested throughout a routine visitors cease close to Las Vegas. He was booked on two out-of-state warrants issued in Utah and Arizona on costs of illegal sexual conduct with a minor and rape as an confederate.

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“I remember [as a child], that was devastating to me,” mentioned Jeffson. “I didn’t know if I’d ever see him again. Even though I didn’t have a relationship with him, I was still very concerned, and I had a love for him as my father and as the prophet of the church. We were terrified.”

A name abruptly got here into the San Angelo home abuse hotline. It was from a lady, who mentioned she was 16 years previous and dwelling on the Craving for Zion ranch. Legislation enforcement entered the property in search of the teenager, who recognized herself as Sarah. It turned out to be a hoax. The decision truly got here from a 33-year-old girl dwelling in Colorado Springs.

In this handout provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), polygamist Warren Steed Jeffs is pictured on an FBI Ten Most Wanted poster. Jeffs, the fugitive leader of a polygamist Mormon sect, was arrested by a Nevada Highway Patrol trooper during a traffic stop. Jeffs was wanted in Utah and Arizona on charges linked to allegations of arranging marriages between men and underage girls.

On this handout supplied by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), polygamist Warren Steed Jeffs is pictured on an FBI Ten Most Needed poster. Jeffs, the fugitive chief of a polygamist Mormon sect, was arrested by a Nevada Freeway Patrol trooper throughout a visitors cease. Jeffs was wished in Utah and Arizona on costs linked to allegations of arranging marriages between males and underage women.
(Handout by Federal Bureau of Investigation by way of Getty Photographs)

Nonetheless, the small print of underage marriage and sexual abuse prompted regulation enforcement to raid the 1,700-acre property in 2008. The Division of Household and Protecting Serves ordered the removing of about 437 kids from the ranch, Texas Monthly reported. Jeffson, who was about six or seven on the time, was one in every of them, alongside together with his sister.

Women and children from the YFZ ranch, the compound built by polygamist leader Warren Jeffs, are moved by bus to San Angelo, Texas, on Sunday, April 6, 2008.

Ladies and kids from the YFZ ranch, the compound constructed by polygamist chief Warren Jeffs, are moved by bus to San Angelo, Texas, on Sunday, April 6, 2008.
(Picture by Khampha Bouaphanh/Fort Value Star-Telegram/Tribune Information Service by way of Getty Photographs)

“I remember those Texas rangers and the SWATs coming in with rifles and everything,” he mentioned. “I didn’t know if I was going to survive. We had been taught that these people wanted to eliminate us. It felt like it only confirmed what Warren Jeffs had taught us.”

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Jeffson mentioned he was separated from his mom for six weeks. He promised the matriarch he would keep together with his sister. Throughout what he described as “the six longest weeks of my life,” he and Sarah had been at a state shelter. He and Sarah had been finally reunited with their mom.

Warren Jeffs is serving a life sentence in Texas for sexually assaulting girls he considered brides. 

Warren Jeffs is serving a life sentence in Texas for sexually assaulting women he thought of brides. 
(Picture by Washington County Sheriff by way of Getty Photographs)

Based on prosecutors, Jeffs engaged in sexual abuse with two women, ages 12 and 14. The documentary confirmed how a key piece of proof in opposition to Jeffs was an audio recording of him instructing his “spiritual bride,” in addition to a number of different younger girls, find out how to please him sexually. In 2007, Jeffs tried to hold himself in a Utah jail. He was force-fed at an Arizona jail in 2009. Then in 2011, he was sentenced to life in jail. That very same 12 months, he was put in a medically-induced coma after fasting in a Texas jail.

Wendell Jeffson with his sister Sarah (center), mother Vicki Thompson (right) and his baby sibling.

Wendell Jeffson together with his sister Sarah (heart), mom Vicki Thompson (proper) and his child sibling.
(Courtesy of Wendell Jeffson)

Jeffson mentioned, at age 14, he and his household had been lower off from FLDS. In 2017, they relocated to New Concord, Utah, the place a number of former members have launched into new lives. Jeffson’s mom has remarried. As for Jeffson, he’s engaged and touring overseas. After Jeffson filmed his account for the documentary, he modified his final identify.

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“I couldn’t be happier,” he mentioned. “I want to create my own story, my own path. I want to move on.”

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Jeffson mentioned he doesn’t have any relationship with Jeffs, and he’s content material with that.

“No matter what he says about us today, he has no control over my life,” mentioned Jeffson. “I’ve found so much love and appreciation out in this world.”

Wendell Jeffson and his fiancée.

Wendell Jeffson and his fiancée.
(Courtesy of Wendell Jeffson)

Jeffson is conscious his story is totally different from the various others who both left or had been solid out of the FLDS. The group has misplaced a whole bunch of members lately. In 2017, Jeffs’ brother Lyle was convicted on meals stamp fraud costs. Some followers nonetheless think about Jeffs to be their prophet and consider he was wrongfully convicted.

“We weren’t crazy,” Jeffson mirrored. “He was cunning, very manipulative in the way he made everyone love him so much. And he hid it for so long. There’s no hiding that he is a pedophile and deserves to be in prison. He ruined so many lives. I hope people understand they have the freedom to get out from under his control so that they can live their own lives. People need to be careful and watch out for someone like him, who only had his own interests in mind.”

Peacock’s “Preaching Evil” will premiere on April 26. The Related Press contributed to this report.

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