What Happened To Warren Jeffs' Wives?

"The woman, if she is not careful will be overbearing and always ask permission for what she wants. And ladies, build up your husbands by being submissive." Warren Jeffs, the infamous leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), spoke these words before his congregation in a 2005 sermon (via Southern Poverty Law Center). Over the years, the Utah and Arizona-based FLDS has developed a stigmatic reputation for its openly racist, homophobic, and sexist teachings that have given rise to major legal insubordinations. 

Warren Jeffs, who once occupied the FBI's "Most Wanted" list, was convicted of sexually assaulting two of his "child brides" in 2011 and is serving a life sentence plus 20 years (per Oxygen). His doctrine proclaims that, in order for a man to achieve salvation, he must have at least three wives. Under Jeffs, girls and women within the sect were controlled in various ways, as were his male followers. To displease Jeffs could mean banishment from the community, according to ABC News (via YouTube).

History of the FLDS

The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and Mormonism can be traced back to 1830 when Joseph Smith, the founder of the movement, published "The Book" and established what was then known as the Church of Christ (it would go on to become the FLDS). Their controversial paradigm — which included the practice of polygamy — evoked a tumultuous relationship between the group and the government, and in 1890, they were forced to abandon the practice in order to appease lawmakers and ascertain the longevity of their movement (via UK Essays). 

A series of leaders presided over the church throughout the 20th century in perpetual fashion, with several different factions maintaining polygamist lifestyles in secret. In 2002, when faction leader Rulon Jeffs died, his authority was passed on to his son, Warren. During his saga as church overlord, the late Rulon Jeffs disbanded the council government system and established a unilateral one-man rule. 

Under Warren Jeffs, life became strictly regimented for church members. According to Southern Poverty Law Center, recreational activities like swimming and watching television were prohibited, and "spiritual marriages" were dictated Jeffs, with the leader assigning women to men, and to himself. 

Younger male members were often excommunicated in order to reduce competition, and his slew of sexual exploits amplified as he took on new wives, including and especially impressionable young girls. Jeffs was indicted in 2008 on child sexual assault charges and never returned to his estimated 80 wives, according to ABC News (via YouTube).

The favorite wife, Naomi Jessop

A four-part docuseries on Hulu entitled "Preaching Evil: A Wife On The Run With Warren Jeffs,"  follows the first-hand retelling of Jeffs' rise to power and attempted escape from authorities via the perspective of Naomi Jessop, per Variety. Jessop, the former bride of both Rulon and Warren Jeffs, was the latter's "favorite wife," as reported by the Daily Mail. She was also one of the first child brides to be passed on to Warren following his father's death (via The Cinemaholic), though Warren married all of his father's wives except for two. 

As a member of the FLDS and prized partner to Warren Jeffs, Naomi Jessop reportedly took secret trips with him across the country. Straddled to the back of his motorcycle, Jessop would travel with the church leader on covert vacations and even accompanied him when he fled from the FBI after winding up on their most wanted list (per The Daily Mail). Tragically, Naomi Jessop perished in 2015 alongside eight others — including seven children — when a severe flash flood in Utah swept their vehicle off the road (via NBC News).

Brielle Decker tries to help others escape

Brielle Decker (born Lynette Warner), the 65th wife of Warren Jeffs, opened up to Fox 10 Phoenix about her harrowing life within the cult and the aftermath of her husband's conviction. A member of the church since birth, her father turned her over to Jeffs on the day of her 18th birthday. Jeffs generally preferred women who were not of legal age, so Decker felt that he wasn't "really that interested" in her.

"I was just a little girl, but he acted weird. People from ever since I could remember told me, 'You're going to marry Warren Jeffs,'" Decker told Fox 10 Phoenix. Ultimately, Decker escaped the compound. After contacting authorities, she met Krystyn Decker and the Sound Choices Coalition — a group dedicated to helping women recover from and escape polygamy. It was only after Decker adopted her that Lynette Warner changed her name to Brielle Decker. 

Following Warren Jeffs' conviction, Brielle Decker received the keys to a property he once owned in Colorado City, Arizona. She turned it into a refuge for The Dream Center, a global nonprofit that transforms buildings into shelters and presently invests her time into helping those in need (per Fox 10 Phoenix).

Mildred Blackmore stays

Not all who fell under Warren Jeffs' sway departed from their fundamentalist roots. Mildred "Millie" Blackmore, who married Jeffs at the age of 13 in 2004, reportedly fled to another polygamist compound in Canada after her husband was incarcerated. Her brother, Brandon S. Blackmore, told The Salt Lake Tribune in 2016 that she was living with their mother in Bountiful, British Columbia.

Though he didn't approach her, he said that she was wearing the "same FLDS attire" when he saw her and that she admittedly remains loyal to Jeffs. "I haven't confronted her because she wouldn't talk to me anyway," he told The Salt Lake Tribune following the encounter. Millie was one of at least two other underage girls married to Jeffs that were originally from Canada. The whereabouts of the other confirmed two, Alyshia Rae Blackmore and Nolita Colleen Blackmore are currently unknown (via The Salt Lake Tribune).

Others who remained

Other former brides of Jeffs have remained at the FLDS compound, two of whom were caught in 2016 trying to sneak contraband (a microphone installed into a hollowed-out watch) to him while visiting the Texas prison in which he currently resides. Around the same time, another one of his wives was denied entrance after a metal detector picked up on something hidden in her hair, though she left the facility before prison officials could ascertain what it was (via Deseret News).

In August of 2021, CNN reported that the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints still sports a fellowship of 10,000 estimated members who reside in Utah, British Columbia, and several states across the American southwest — Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado. It would appear that even in the wake of his heinous scandal, Warren Jeffs maintains an element of authority from behind prison bars, and some of his wives remain dedicated to the convicted child sexual abuser.