Renewed battle for control of FLDS

ABC 4 News, Utah/August 18, 2011

Hildale, Utah -- Now that convicted pedophile Warren Jeffs is settling into a Texas prison for the rest of his life, the fight is heating up for control of the 10-thousand strong FLDS polygamist group.

William E. Jessop, the same man who earlier this year claimed he was the rightful president of the group, has sent an open letter to Warren's full brother, Lyle Jeffs, who is now apparently in command.

"Please take this as a matter of life or death." the letter begins. "You all have had five long years and numerous opportunities to clean this immoral mess up, and you have not."

It continues, "You condoned the immorality ... by believing you can sit in the halls of the court and turn off the evidence and deny the abominations of Warren Jeffs." Lyle was present in the San Angelo, Texas courtroom during part of his brother's trial. But when the prosecution was presenting witnesses and evidence, Lyle would wait in the hallway.

The letter ends with the challenge to "come clean."

The letter was delivered to all of the post office boxes in twin towns of Colorado City, Arizona and Hildale, Utah.

Although it too more than four years to act on it, William E. Jessop does have a claim to leadership that was validated by Warren Jeffs himself. While in the Washington County jail in January of 2007, Jeffs called William E. Jessop telling him to take over the group. Here is a quote from that conversation recorded and released by jail officials:

Warren Jeffs: Okay. I have this message ... I know of your ordination, that you are the key holder and I have sent a note with my signature verifying it so that there is no question. And then to say this to you. I am one of the most wicked men on the face of the earth since the days of father Adam."

The letter is also signed by Willie Jessop (no relation to William). Before Willie Jessop was kicked out of the group at the beginning of the year, he had been the face of the FLDS. After the raid in Texas, he was the spokesman for the group who defended Warren Jeffs in front of the cameras.

Now Willie Jessop says he's repented and is challenging others still loyal to Warren to do the same.

Still, Lyle Jeffs shows no indication that he will do anything of the sort. ABC 4 News also obtained what is purported to be his response to the Jessops' letter sent in a text to FLDS members: “The enemy has mailed out another mailing. A trifold letter addressed to Box Holder. Give it no time. It is poison.”

Poison or balm? Either way, it seems another of the legacies of Warren Jeffs may be a bitterly divided polygamist community.

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