Ex-FLDS member arrested in Tom Green County

San Angelo Standard-Times, Texas/May 16, 2014

San Angelo -- Willie Jessop, a former Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints member, was arrested in Christoval on burglary of a vehicle and Class C misdemeanor assault charges Friday afternoon.

Tom Green County Sheriff Deputy Syed Shah arrested Jessop after he pulled him over in the 20800 block of U.S. 277, a Tom Green County Jail official said.

“He and another man had a confrontation in Tom Green County and subsequently he was arrested for those two violations” — the burglary and “simple assault” — said Tom Green County Sheriff David Jones.

A Texas Ranger was at the scene when Jessop was arrested. Jessop was expected to be arraigned Saturday morning, unless he bonded out of jail. He was being held in lieu of $890 bail Friday evening.

Over the past few weeks Jessop said he has been trying to claim property from the FLDS Yearning for Zion Ranch in Schleicher County. He said he has receipts for the heavy equipment, but that FLDS leader Warren Jeffs’ brothers were the only ones allowed to retrieve property from the ranch.

“We have been working constantly to try to get this to stop,” Jessop said. “The sheriff has threatened to arrest any non-supporters of Warren who try to retrieve property.”

“It’s absolutely insane.”

Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran could not be reached for comment.

A Class C misdemeanor is punishable by a fine up to $500. Burglary of a vehicle is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $4,000 and up to a year in jail.

In April 2008, more than 400 children were removed from the ranch in a raid by state, local and federal authorities, prompted by a report of child abuse that later was revealed to be a hoax call. The children eventually were returned to their families, but evidence taken in the raid served as the basis for a series of cases that led to the imprisonment of a dozen men from the sect, including Jeffs.

51st District Judge Barbara Walther, who signed the initial search warrant that allowed law enforcement to raid the compound in 2008, ruled in favor of the state and on Jan. 6 entered a default judgment in the civil case, which directed authorities to take possession of the forfeited ranch

On April 17, the Schleicher County Sheriff’s Office and the Texas Department of Public Safety met with the residents of the YFZ Ranch and gave them copies of court orders related to the forfeiture of the property, according to a news release from the DPS.

Serving the documents was the next step in the state attorney general’s civil case against the YFZ Ranch, a compound near Eldorado that once was home to hundreds of members of the FLDS.

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