[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]
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.
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