What's Happened To Warren Jeffs' Children Since His Imprisonment?

In 2011, polygamist religious leader Warren Jeffs was sentenced to life in prison plus 20 years for sexual assault and molestation of his own children and underage girls, some of whom he had married. None of those marriages were legal, and were valid only in the view of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS). Jeffs was the FLDS leader and considered their prophet. The FLDS is an unaffiliated offshoot from the mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or LDS, sometimes called Mormon.

Although LDS now prohibits plural marriage or polygamy, the FLDS still condones such behavior. It's said that Jeffs had as many as 80 wives, many of whom were underage (via The Guardian). With those women and girls, Jeffs fathered up to 60 children, although estimates vary, per CNN. If it weren't for the bravery of two of Jeff's children who left the FLDS, Jeffs' crimes may never have been exposed. Since then, Jeffs' children have accomplished great things, while other lives were cut short in tragedy.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

What is the FLDS?

Following in the footsteps of his father, Rulon, who himself is said to have had anywhere from 50 to 80 wives, Warren Jeffs became leader and prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 2002. Jeffs and his followers lived in several compounds all throughout the Southwest, in states like Utah, Texas, Colorado, and the Utah-Arizona border near the towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, in an area they call Short Creek. 

Jeffs and his followers moved frequently to evade the authorities, per Biography. As leader and prophet, it's Warren Jeffs who decides who marries whom in the religion. Women and girls are prohibited from cutting their hair and must wear prairie dresses. He also controls how they're educated. Otherwise cut off from the outside world, Warren Jeffs' followers still consider him prophet, even though he's in prison, according to ABC News.

Roy was the first of Jeffs' children to leave

Roy Jeffs was the first of Warren Jeffs children to leave the FLDS church and speak out about his own molestation. He also spoke of the abuse that siblings and others endure within the sect. Alongside his sister Becky, Roy appeared in 2015 on Lisa Ling's CNN show "This is Life" (posted on YouTube), speaking about their experience. This episode is often credited with bringing their father's crime to the attention of the public. In that CNN interview, among others, Roy revealed that he, too, was molested by Jeffs, and after he learned that similar things were happening to his sisters and to Jeffs' underage "wives," Roy knew had to take a stand.

On the decision to leave the FLDS, Roy told USA Today, "It definitely took a couple of years of thinking about it before I got the nerve to do it." Sadly, it all became too much for Roy Jeffs and he died by suicide in 2019 at age 26. His sister Rachel blamed Warren for her brother's decision to take his own life, according to People. According to a social media post by Rachel, cited by Utah news outlet ABC4, Warren Jeffs "did not allow Roy to grow up with his siblings, and he kept him hidden in houses of hiding [per The Salt Lake Tribune] most of his growing up life, telling the family that Roy was a bad boy and tried to turn us against him."

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Raymond Jeffs was afraid to leave

Alongside Roy, Rachel, Issac, and Becky Jeffs, Raymond (above) was another child of Jeffs to leave the FLDS church and tell the outside world about his experience. Prior to Becky and Roy appearing on CNN, law enforcement officials were aware of the FLDS compound, which they raided on several occasions. Some of these raids happened while Raymond was still a child. Raymond and his brother Issac were removed in one of those raids. They both later left the church.

Of that experience, Raymond Jeffs later said (via USA Today), "It was scary. It was uncertain ... We were told the world wanted to kill us, that people wanted to destroy us and our moral values." For his part, Issac Jeffs became an actor and appeared in an episode of the Lifetime series "Escaping Polygamy" (also on YouTube) in 2014. In the show, Issac Jeffs tried to reunite with his mother, who was also expelled from the FLDS compound (via IMDb).

Rachel Jeffs wrote a book

In 2017, another of Warren Jeffs' children decided to leave the FLDS church. Rachel Jeffs spoke publicly about her upbringing to Megyn Kelly on the "Today Show" (via YouTube), which included numerous instances of sexual abuse. At that time, she said the sexual abuse at the hands of her father began when she was just 8 years old. Even though she turned to her mother for help, the abuse continued despite her mother's best effort to intervene.

That same year, Rachel Jeffs released a memoir, "Breaking Free: How I Escaped Polygamy, the FLDS Cult, and My Father, Warren Jeffs." Prior to leaving the FLDS church, Rachel was married off by her father at age 18 to a 25-year-old man. When she escaped, she left her husband behind, but was able to bring her five children with her. She is now remarried to a man who also left the FLDS, per A&E. Referring to her father's underage wives, Rachel said (via A&E), "I remember thinking that it was gross, but I couldn't really do anything about it."

Many of Warren Jeffs' children remain in the church

Beyond Roy, Rachel, Becky, Raymond, and Issac, little is known of the scores of the other Jeffs children who remain in the FLDS church along with Jeffs remaining wives. Others have also managed to leave. What is known is that Warren Jeff continues to communicate with his followers from prison, where he had spoken out against government officials persecuting what he calls the "pure Holy Law of Celestial Plural Marriage" (via USA Today).

Of her time in the FLDS, Rachel Jeffs later said (via A&E), "There are a lot of good people there who are very lost ... It's more oppressive than good. It hurts a lot of people. People need to be free, for sure. Warren Jeffs should not be their leader." The complete Warren Jeffs story is told in the series "Preaching Evil: A Wife on the Run with Warren Jeffs," available to stream from April 26 on Peacock+. A trailer is available to view on YouTube.