A former child bride who fled a fundamentalist Mormon cult has told how the sect’s leader reminded her she was “the property” of her husband after she begged him to free her from the forced marriage.
Child bride who brought down Warren Jeffs speaks out
Elissa Wall suffered multiple miscarriages after being made to marry her cousin at the age of 14 under the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Now 31, she shed new light on life inside the isolated sect in a documentary about its domineering leader Warren Jeffs, who controlled almost every aspect of his 15,000 followers’ lives.
Ms Wall was born into the church and said she lived a “very secret lifestyle”.She said: “We didn’t interact with the outside world. We didn’t go to public school. We were educated, cultivated and bred to be products of the church and the religion."
In 2001, Jeff arranged her marriage to her 19-year-old cousin Allen Steed and she was forced to go through with the ceremony despite her protests.
“I really think at the time it was about submission,” she told Fox News. “I could have become a really big problem for the community and for Warren. I was a little more outspoken than the average girl. But I really think it was about pounding me into submission… I was just the next player he wanted to eliminate and to quickly get control over.”
Ms Wall said she suffered multiple miscarriages after being forced into sex by Steed.
“I was now the property of my cousin,” she said. ”And no matter how resistant I was to him, his job was to get me into submission as quickly as possible… Then the sexual abuse came later as he started to force himself on me and force that my role as a wife was to be at his beck and call and to have his children.
“And when I became resistant to that, the physical abuse started to take over. And I think the frustration of my cousin, his frustration of being judged for not being a good man because his wife wasn’t submissive and she wasn’t good — that all compounded the problem.”
Ms Wall said she repeatedly told Jeffs, or “Uncle Warren”, she was being abused, but her cries for help were ignored.
“I would describe these occurrences in detail in hopes that he would validate these deep concerns that I had,” she said. But he reprimanded me over and over for not being submissive. Reminding me of my teachings. Reminding me that I was the property of this man and he could do whatever he wanted to me.”
Ms Wall ran away from the church in 2005, when she was 18, and later alerted authorities. Jeffs and his church soon became infamous worldwide when he went on the run after being charged with sexual assault of a minor. Police had found evidence one of the women Jeffs called his wives was aged just 12. The fugitive was arrested outside Las Vegas in August 2006, with more than $50,000 (€40,569) in cash and multiple mobile phones, laptops, wigs and sunglasses in his car.
Steed was later charged with raping Ms Wall but was jailed for just 30 days after reaching a plea deal in which he admitted a charge of solemnising a prohibited marriage.
The A&E special ‘Warren Jeffs: The Prophet of Evil’ premieres Feb. 19. Here’s what to know about the polygamist leader convicted of sexually assaulting his child brides.
Warren Jeffs (L) looks at his attorney during his trial in St. George, Utah, September 19, 2007. A Utah judge rejected a motion to dismiss charges against a self-described "prophet" of a breakaway Mormon sect that practices polygamy after prosecutors rested their case unexpectedly early on Tuesday. Warren Jeffs, 51, the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is on trial on two counts of being an accomplice to rape after he presided over a wedding of a 14-year-old girl. (Reuters)
1. Warren is the leader of a polygamist sect. He became the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) in 2002 when his father died. While in power, Warren had more than 70 wives and dozens of children. Two dozen of his wives were under the age of 17, reports ABC News. He resigned as president of the FLDS Church in Nov. 2007.
2. He was convicted of child sexual assault. In 2011, Warren was convicted of aggravated sexual assault of a child under the age of 14 and sexual assault of a child under the age of 17. These two girls were his child brides at the time. Warren was sentenced to life in prison. He had been previously tried and convicted on charges of being an accessory to rape, but this conviction was later overturned.
3. He was on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List. The FBI placed him on the list on May 6, 2006, after he fled following being charged in Utah as an accomplice to rape for marrying a 14-year-old girl and an adult man, according to CNN. He was arrested on Aug. 28, 2006.
4. Warren is still trying to control the FLDS from behind bars. One of Warren’s wives tried to visit him at a Texas state prison with a microphone implanted in her watch, CBS News reports. Another woman was unable to get inside the prison after a metal detector found something buried in her hair. Helaman Barlow, former police chief of the twin cities of Colorado City, Arizona, and Hildale, Utah, where Warren was based, told ABC News that he believes that Warren still controls the lives of 10,000 members of the FLDS community from prison.
5. He was hospitalized after excessive fasting in prison and more. Warren has a history of self-harm in prison. He attempted to hang himself in Jan. 2007 while awaiting trial, The New York Times reports. He also three himself against the walls of his cell and banged his head. He was later hospitalized for dehydration and depression.