He alleges sect leader Jeffs expelled him from community, won’t say where his mother is.
Johnny Jessop was just 13 when polygamous sect leader Warren S. Jeffs allegedly expelled him from his family, home and community.
He last spoke to his mother, Elsi Jessop, two years ago and has no idea where she is.
Now, the 18-year-old Jessop has sued Jeffs in hopes a judge will order the sect leader to put the teen in contact with her. The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in 3rd District Court in Salt Lake City, also seeks damages for destroying their relationship.
The lawsuit alleges that Jeffs has “systematically” destroyed hundreds of families as leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints by driving out men he deems unworthy and boys he views as competition for plural wives.
The Diversity Foundation, which works with many of those teens – the so-called Lost Boys – estimates that since 2002 as many as 400 have fled or been kicked out of their homes in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz.
The two towns are the home base of the FLDS church, which adheres to a 19th century version of Mormonism that includes the practice of plural marriage. The mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints publicly disavowed polygamy in 1890 and now excommunicates those who espouse or practice it.
Like Jessop, many teens from the twin towns have been cut off from their families, but others say they have some contact with their parents.
Jessop has written two letters to Jeffs, who is incarcerated at the Purgatory Correctional Facility in Hurricane, pleading for information about his mother’s whereabouts.
There has been no response, said Roger Hoole, Jessop’s attorney.
“There is only one person in the world who can authorize this mother to contact her son, and that is Warren Jeffs,” Hoole said. “We’re asking him to do it and absent that, we’ll ask the court to order him to do it because there is a pattern of minor children being cut off from their parents and that is untenable.”
Jeffs instructs the FLDS to cut off ties to family members who apostatize from the faith.
Jessop was 10 when Jeffs expelled his father from the faith and reassigned his mother to then-FLDS bishop Fred Jessop. At 13, Jessop ran away for several days, joining older friends in Hurricane to party; an older brother tracked him down and told the boy Jeffs wanted him out of the community.
For the next two years, Jessop bounced between homes of friends and relatives, landing in juvenile court at least three times. Each time, he was ordered to rejoin his mother but, the suit claims, Jeffs would not allow it and Jessop ended up staying with relatives.
In an interview with The Salt Lake Tribune in December, Jessop said his behavior caused ongoing friction; he smoked, drank and wore short-sleeved T-shirts, which are taboo among the FLDS. He was pegged as a troublemaker and “evil.”
When Jessop was 15, he left the FLDS community and turned to the Diversity Foundation for help.
The foundation, based in South Jordan, is the creation of Dan Fischer, a successful dentist and entrepreneur who left the FLDS church about 15 years ago.
Jessop insists that despite his wayward behavior his mother loves him and wants to have contact with him – if only Jeffs would permit it.
Jeffs is scheduled to stand trial on April 23 on two felony charges of being an accomplice to rape for conducting an arranged marriage between a 14-year-old girl and a 19-year-old man.