Flora Jessop was raised in the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), a group that long ago broke its ties with the Mormon Church, and under FLDS rules, she was forced to marry her older cousin when she was sixteen. The marriage proved to be the final straw.
Jessop said she didn’t run away from Colorado City, AZ because of religion, but because of abuse. She says that she was sexually abused in her home, beginning at age 13. But, she was strong-willed and wasn’t about to submit. So, Flora took the unheard of action (at least at that time and in that place) of taking her alleged abuser to court.
When a St. George, UT judge dismissed the charges, Flora says she was returned to Colorado City where she was kept a prisoner in her uncle’s home for the next four years.
Jessop’s escape was made good at the age of 18, and she stayed on the run for several years, convinced that she was being pursued by church leaders. Finally, she was able to move on with her life, even marry and start a family, but she never forgot what happened to her in Colorado City and agonized over the thought of other young girls having to live as she did.
That’s when Jessop became an activist. She launched a group called the Child Protection Project through which she worked to educate the public about the horrors of polygamy. She also began helping girls escape from the FLDS.
Her most recent achievement came in January of this year when her group helped two sixteen year-old girls, Fawn Holm and Fawn Louise Broadbent, escape from Colorado City. Both girls had been promised in marriage to older men.
Jessop says that for years her work on behalf of the girls of the FLDS and against the church’s polygamist policies have been hampered by the unwillingness of the State of Arizona to prosecute polygamists. She also notes that Colorado City’s local government, including the police force and school board are controlled by FLDS members.
The FLDS is headed by its Prophet, Warren Jeffs, the 48 year-old son of the group’s former Prophet, Rulon Jeffs. Published reports in the Salt Lake City Tribune and the Phoenix New Times state that in 2002 Jeffs wrested control of the group away from three of his father’s lieutenants, the Barlow brothers, Dan, Joe and Louis, who were the sons of former Prophet, John Y. Barlow. Jeffs quickly excommunicated the three men and ordered them to leave their wives and homes.
Jessop says that recently the states of Arizona and Utah have begun cracking down on polygamy, and by extension the FLDS. The tougher enforcement resulted in Colorado City police officer Rodney Holm being convicted of unlawful sexual conduct with a 16 year-old girl, and one count of bigamy.
Holm’s attorney, Rodney Parker of Salt Lake City, quickly announced his intention to appeal the conviction, citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent overturn of the Texas sodomy law and its impact on a persons privacy of the bedroom.
The conviction sent shock waves through the FLDS community. Jessop says that Jeffs immediately began making plans to relocate some, if not all, of his followers. And, she says, that’s where David S. Allred comes into the picture.
Jessop notes that Allred’s middle name is Steed. She says his grandmother was Martha Steed and that her sister, Mary Steed was Rulon Jeffs’ 4th and “favored” wife. Jessop also claims that David S. Allred’s wife, Rosa Barlowe, is the daughter of Dan Barlowe, one of Rulon Jeffs’ lieutenants who was excommunicated by Warren Jeffs. Additionally, Jessop says that Allred’s sister, Jeanetta Allred is married to Warren Jeff’s brother .
Jessop says that the fact that David S. Allred is involved in the purchase of 1300+ acres of land in Schleicher County, and the fact that buildings closely resemble those currently occupied by FLDS groups in Colorado City, AZ. are being built on that land, leads her to believe that some, if not all, of Jeffs’ FLDS followers are headed this way.
Jessop says she is convinced that the FLDS has set its sights on Eldorado. That means she has set her sights here, too. When asked what if she is wrong about the buildings that are going up just north of town, and what if they turn out to be nothing more than a corporate hunting retreat, she just pauses and says, “I’m not wrong. This has all the signs and it people need to be aware.”
Jessop cites the plight of her own sister, Ruby Jessop, as the only reason she needs to come here, or anywhere, in order to continue her fight with the FLDS. She says that Ruby was forced to marry her stepbrother at age 14. She escaped once, but was tricked into returning and now has two children of her own. Flora says that because of her previous escape, Ruby is never seen unattended.
Helping Jessop with her campaign against the FLDS are an ardent group of supporters. As for the awareness angle, there is the national media that is following her to Eldorado. She says that awareness is their job.
Flora Jessop heads up the Child Protection Program located in Phoenix, AZ. Persons desiring more information about Jessop are urged to check on the Internet at www.childpro.org or at www.helpthechildbrides.com
Mar. 25, 2004