July 29th, 2008
09:30 AM ET

Justice for the children

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/07/28/art.fldsmugshots.jpg caption="The five men shown above turned themselves in after being charged with sexually assaulting a child at the Yearning for Zion ranch."]

Laura Palmer
AC360° Writer
Co-author, with Carolyn Jessop, 'ESCAPE'


Carolyn Jessop, bestselling author of ESCAPE, her memoir about life in the polygamist world of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints, had just heard the names of the five men under arrest in Texas.

She knows the men who surrendered on Monday. Four face up to 99 years in prison on charges of sexually assaulting a child. Two of them were her stepsons, Ray Jessop, and Leroy Jessop. "It's heart-wrenching, but justice needs to be served if they have truly injured young girls as charged," she told me.

The fifth man, Dr. Lloyd Hammon Barlow, is charged with failure to report three counts of child abuse. He is a physician, with a Texas medical license in family practice, and a member of the FLDS.


Filed under: Crime & Punishment • FLDS update • Laura Palmer
May 1st, 2008
12:47 PM ET

Why so many FLDS children have broken bones

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/04/17/art.polygamy3.jpg%5D

Carolyn Jessop
Co-author with Laura Palmer of the bestseller ESCAPE, a personal account of life in the FLDS
Sickened but not surprised is my reaction to the news that 41 of the boys removed from the Eldorado compound showed signs of having had broken bones. Some of them were “very young,” according to child protection officials.

I was married to Merril Jessop, who now runs the compound in Texas. Physical abuse was not uncommon in his household. I saw boys hit or kicked hard enough to result in fractures. I remember seeing a boy kicked so hard he flew across the room. I’ve seen boys hit with large boards.

It’s not just the abuse.

When my son, Patrick, was six years old, he fell off a bunk bed one night. I was sure he broke his arm. Merril refused to let me take him to the doctor. He said his arm was not broken. I sat up with Pat all night. I gave him pain medication. He was in agony.

I was not free as a mother to take my child to the doctor unless I had Merril’s permission. I waited for three days until Merril went out of town. Pat was unable to use his arm. I took him to the local clinic. His arm was broken and needed to be set.

Neglect is abuse, too.


Filed under: Carolyn Jessop • Laura Palmer • Polygamy
April 22nd, 2008
12:02 PM ET

Increasingly strange changes in the FLDS community

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/04/23/book.292.320.jessop.jpg caption="Copyright © 2007 by Visionary Classics, LLC From the book Escape by Carolyn Jessop, co-author Laura Palmer, published by Broadway Books, a division of Random House, Inc. Reprinted with permission." width=292 height=320]By 1995, Warren Jeffs was becoming a subtle and more powerful presence in our daily lives. This struck me as odd because there were many other men who were more powerful in the FLDS than he. But he was Uncle Rulon’s favored son, and the prophet would often say that Warren spoke for him.

Warren spoke in other ways. He began teaching special priesthood history classes in Salt Lake City where he still worked as the principal at a private FLDS school. The classes were taped, and Tammy’s sister came to our house one day enthusiastically talking about how much information they contained. I wondered why anyone would care about whatever Warren Jeffs had to say. Tammy’s sister said that these tapes were not available to just anybody. Only the privileged could purchase them.

Once the tapes gained exclusive status every family in the community wanted a set. Some people who heard them found them disgusting and said they were little more than Warren’s racist rants. He claimed that the black race was put on earth to preserve evil.


Filed under: Barclay Palmer • Carolyn Jessop • Laura Palmer • Polygamy
April 4th, 2008
06:26 PM ET

Escape from Polygamy

I was standing in a copy store this afternoon when my cell phone rang. It was Carolyn Jessop. "They raided the compound. It's sealed off. They went in there with an armored personnel carrier, Texas Rangers, everything."

This is not the first time Carolyn Jessop has left me speechless.

When I first interviewed her for CNN two summers ago it was for a piece I was producing about the F.L.D.S. the polygamist cult run by Warren Jeffs.  Carolyn had escaped with her eight children; her then-husband, Merril Jessop, was one of Warren's top lieutenants. Since Warren Jeffs went to prison, Merril Jessop has been the man in charge.

I lucked into the interview with Carolyn at the last minute. I had not had time to talk with her before she showed up in my hotel room in Salt Lake City. She sat down, the camera started rolling, and she took my breath away...


Filed under: Barclay Palmer • Laura Palmer • Polygamy