November 26th, 2008
08:12 AM ET

Finally – Merril Jessop indicted

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/04/23/book.292.320.jessop.jpg caption="Carolyn Jessop is a former FLDS Member and Co-Author of Escape." width=292 height=320]
Carolyn Jessop
Author of ESCAPE, and former FLDS member

Relief. Justice. Accountability. Those three words best express my reaction to the news that my ex-husband, Merril Jessop, one of the most powerful men in the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), has been indicted.

Merril, 72, is charged with conducting the marriage of an underage girl—his own daughter—to the FLDS “prophet” Warren Jeffs. I know her; she was 12 years old when she was forced to marry. Merril posted $30,000 in bail yesterday and is free. But he’s been charged with a felony and will stand trial.

Merril is in charge of the compound in Texas that’s home to hundreds of FLDS members and that was raided last April on accusations of marriages of underage girls. In fact, Merril has headed the sect since 2006, when Jeffs was put on the FBI’s Most Wanted List, fled the compound, and was later convicted on a charge related to the marriage of a girl to an older man.

I long ago worked through the anger I felt toward Merril, whom I was forced to marry at 18. I was his fourth wife and we had 8 children in 15 years. Five years ago I fled with all of my children in the middle of the night. The book I wrote about my life, ESCAPE, became a bestseller.

I knew I couldn’t stay silent when crimes were being perpetrated against so many women and children still trapped in the FLDS. I wrote ESCAPE to bring attention to the rampant degradation, humiliation and exploitation that was routinely done by the FLDS in the name of “God.”

I wanted men who perpetuated crimes against women and children in the FLDS held accountable and brought to justice. I wanted the crimes to stop.

So far, 12 men connected with the FLDS compound in Texas have now been indicted. But until this week, those charged had been underlings. My fear was that unless the top leadership was held accountable the less powerful would be forced to fall on their swords and cut deals to avoid having evidence come out in their trials.

But the latest round of indictments changed everything. Merril Jessop is one of the most powerful men – if not the most powerful man - in the FLDS now that the “prophet” is behind bars.

Merril’s indictment, along with that of Wendell Nielson, 68, who was charged with three felony count of bigamy, sends a powerful message to every member of the FLDS: your crimes will be prosecuted.

Truckloads of evidence were seized by the Texas authorities when the FLDS compound was raided. When these men go on trial, that evidence will be made public. Facts are facts. The FLDS always tries to discredit women who flee. But evidence collected from the compound will speak for itself.

Emotionally, I feel that a tremendous burden has been lifted from me. So much has happened to me this past year since the publication of ESCAPE and the raid on the Texas compound. But now I know that the key leadership of the FLDS is going to be prosecuted I feel a deep sense of peace. My thankfulness knows no bounds.

Filed under: Carolyn Jessop • Polygamy • Raw Politics
soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Teresa

    I just finished reading ESCAPE this morning. I could not put it down, and I can't stop thinking about it. Carolyn, you are an amazing woman! I can't believe the strength you had to have to get out of there with your children. The book was fascinating because we lived in St. George during the time when the FLDS schools closed and Warren Jeffs was gaining power. Very interesting to learn what was happening during that time from an inside perspective. What can we do to help women like yourself?

    June 3, 2009 at 12:46 pm |
  2. Jo Zahn

    I pray that you can help the people still trapped inside to see they are living in hell, the outside is not hell, it is living! What an impact you have had on opening the eyes of America as to what is really happening. We express freedom of religion, but FLDS is not a religion, it is a compound of slavery and abuse. I was so excited to read ESCAPE and see that some people do understand that what they are living is wrong or not normal as you did. Please write another book. I know there are so many more stories. I have read Flora Jessops book and will be buying Elisa Walls book next. Help these other victims see they can make a living out of blowing the whistle!

    April 15, 2009 at 2:26 pm |
  3. melissa gigax

    I was unable to put this book down. How is it that such evil happens in America today? Carolyn's courage is inspiring. I truly believe God was watching our for her and her children. I pray for Betty's eyes to be opened to the truth. God is a loving God, not one who would inflict such extremism on women and children. I hope people will take measures to help women like Carolyn get out of this hideous cult!

    March 19, 2009 at 6:39 pm |
  4. Caroline Moore

    Elizabeth, I'm looking online for Carolyn Jessop's blog too. I'm just about to finish her book, it's blown me away and I'm desperate to find out what Carolyns' doing now,,,is she still with Brian, what are her children upto, just any more information on her, i'm absolutely intrigrued.

    I look at her picture and can't believe that a human being has endured so much and survived. We can all complain about different things in life, but Carolyn just makes me realise how lucky I am. What she's been through without support is quite incredible, it really humbles me.

    February 21, 2009 at 3:34 pm |
  5. Elizabeth Hardy

    I just finished your book. I read last night until I couldn't keep my eyes open anymore, then woke up this morning and read for 4 hours straight until I finished it. What you have been through is amazing. I immediately jumped on the internet to find out if Merrill is in jail. Barbara needs to be there too. I wish you would start a blog to keep us up to date on the things that you are doing to stop the craziness. I would be your first subscriber. My thoughts and prayers go out to you. By the way, I'm dying to know if you're still with Brian..LOL
    Speaking for 1000s of women, we're very proud of you! You're a wonderful example to all women in abusive relationships. We love you and would like to stay in touch.
    Supporting you always!
    Elizabeth Hardy

    February 17, 2009 at 5:08 pm |
  6. Sara Hopper

    I am sorry, Carolyn, I mistyped my e-mail the first time. I hope for all the best for you and Brian. Hurrah for college, education, and I hope an end to polygamy. I too endured an abusive marriage. Education and the fact that I could lose my children motivated me. What happened to James, what a guy.

    February 16, 2009 at 12:37 am |
  7. Sara Hopper

    I too endured an abusive marriage, and like you taught. I thank my mother for the example she set for me in getting an education. I thank God for people like you who work to educate the public. I occasionally tell students that I was able to care for my children and myself because of my education. I do try to help those who cross my path and who help me. I hope the best for you and Brian.

    February 16, 2009 at 12:35 am |
  8. Debbie

    I read your book several months ago and am very admirable of your courage. How have your kids handled all of the publicity of their father and do you hear from Betty?

    February 15, 2009 at 8:04 pm |
  9. Mary Ann

    I just finished your book, I never read a book so fast. My husband wanted to read your book, but when I ordered it and then I got it ,I had just finisned reading a book and I picked up your book ESCAPE and I had a hard time putting it down. I just can not beleive all that you had to go through. You are a very brave person. And to care and love the children from the man who never loved you. I read parts of it to my twelve year old daughter. It's unbeleiveable what a person can go through and come out so strong .
    TO :Carolyn keep up your good work to help other!!!!

    February 13, 2009 at 6:46 pm |
  10. Elie

    Carolyn is an inspiration. What a good, strong and Brave woman. God was really behind her in her actions and called on her to expose this injustice and evil. Without her testament to the abuse in her former compound, it may have gotten out of control. We need more ppl in the world like you Carolyn.

    January 25, 2009 at 1:55 am |
  11. Eydie

    Yep. Just finished reading Escape. I'm angery too. I am very greatful Merril will face consequences and like others, I hope Evil-barbara will join him! I do totally understand how easy it is for people, especially women, to be brain washed on any level. Look at the damage that is possible under Hollywood's influence...Subjugation of women is always a threat. I'm so glad and greatful Carolyn and her children got out. She also set the stage for Betty to get out when Betty is ready. Betty will have a choice when it comes down to it, Carolyn made sure of that and that's HUGE. Carolyn is the world's greatest mom.

    January 7, 2009 at 6:24 pm |
  12. Laura

    I'm just finishing up reading your book and can barely contain my anger. I want Merril to go to jail for sure but I also want BARBARA to go to jail too for child abuse!!! That woman is PURE EVIL! Please tell me they are doing something to go after her for all the assaults she perpetrated on the innocent children. There must be some way to get at her too. I can only marvel at your ability to constantly out manuever those two sociopaths and still maintain your sanity. Thank the good Lord (and He is good) that you made it out alive and with all of your precious children.

    December 6, 2008 at 10:11 pm |
  13. Geri

    WOW – What awesome news. I just finished your book ESCAPE, Carolyn, and like so many others I could not put it down. I've been thinking about your daughter Betty and hope now that her father is indicted she will come to her senses and return home to you. Thank you for opening up your heart and sharing your horrific story with the world.

    December 6, 2008 at 8:42 pm |
  14. Damia

    Hi Carolyn, I'm reading Escape and I must say you are one strong woman. I cannot help but cry everytime I turn over a page. I'm from Singapore, yet I feel so near you. I hope you stay strong and give my love to all your 8 kids.

    December 5, 2008 at 8:21 am |
  15. Mo

    I just finished reading ESCAPE yesterday. Carolyn Jessop my heart goes out to you and I commend you for your strength to save your children and shed light on the sickening abuse that goes on in the cult. I hope and pray Merril Jessop is prosecuted and found guilty of his many crimes of rape, abuse, neglect, and pedophilia to name a few. He deserves to live out the rest of his life in a federal prison. How ironic that will be.

    November 29, 2008 at 10:32 pm |
  16. Heather,ca

    I really do hope all of the men go to jail. This is a cult and the fact that all of you are born into this yet you are also born in the United States of America with a constitution and Bill of Rights, yet you would never even know that because of the fact that you lived in a cult. I know you look forward to the day when you are all technically free and so do I. Happy Thanksgiving to you!

    November 26, 2008 at 11:27 am |
  17. Sergei Daghlovsky

    A great book which I plan to read soon. Reading about the FLDS in the papers itself makes me so mad. It reminds me immediately of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, which in my opinion should be a staple for all us Americans.

    November 26, 2008 at 9:10 am |
  18. Renee

    Carolyn, sounds like your prayers were finally answered! It takes a while for God to get to all of them but eventually he does in some way.

    November 26, 2008 at 8:33 am |

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