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No answer from Warren Jeffs on whereabouts of man’s mother

Deseret Morning News, USA
Feb. 22, 2008
Linda Thomson • Friday February 22, 2008

A former Utah teenager who was kicked out of a polygamous sect six years ago still is no closer to finding his mother, whom he has seen only once since he was 13.

Johnny Jessop, now 19, filed a civil lawsuit last year against polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs seeking information about the location of the young man’s mother, Elsi Jessop.

A 10-minute deposition with Jeffs at the Utah State Prison Thursday yielded no answers because Jeffs repeatedly invoked the Fifth Amendment, said attorney Roger Hoole, who represents Johnny Jessop.

“He is not willing to answer questions at this point, and we are not surprised,” said Hoole.

The deposition almost did not take place due to a fast that Jeffs began on Feb. 15, according to a fax from the prison. Jeffs was moved to the prison infirmary on Feb. 19.

Hoole said 3rd District Judge L.A. Dever ordered Wednesday that the deposition should go forward unless the prison doctor advised against it. Hoole had argued that this was a “partial fast” that was self-imposed and did not make Jeffs unfit to take part in a deposition.

Jeffs, 52, resigned in November as president of the Fundamentalist LDS Church, which practices polygamy and long has been located in the adjoining towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz. It also has been building a compound in El Dorado, Texas.

It is unclear whether Jeffs is still the sect’s religious leader.

The organization has no connection to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Jeffs is in prison after being convicted last year of two first-degree felony counts of rape as an accomplice. The charges and conviction stem from an arranged marriage Jeffs performed between a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin in 2001. He was sentenced to two prison terms of five-years-to-life.

Johnny Jessop sued because he claims Jeffs “reassigned” his mother and siblings to another man nine years ago. Hoole said Jessop was kicked out of the organization when he was 13 — one of hundreds of “Lost Boys” who have been ousted and left to fend for themselves with no contact with their families.

Hoole said Johnny Jessop simply wants to see his mother again, and both Jessop and Hoole are convinced that Jeffs holds the key to Elsi Jessop’s whereabouts.

“I think there’s no question that Warren Jeffs could easily reunite Johnny Jessop with his mother,” Hoole said. “At some point, something has to happen to get these people reunited with their family members. We have hundreds of these young men now that have been kicked out, and they need this business to end.”

Warren Jeffs’ attorney, Walter Bugden, did not respond Thursday to a phone call request for comment from the Deseret Morning News.

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