Polygamous cult leader Warren Jeffs looks unamused in his new mug shot as he continues to serve his life sentence for aggravated sexual assault
Polygamous cult leader Warren Jeffs looks unamused in his new mug shot as he continues to serve his life sentence for aggravated sexual assault.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice released a new mug shot of Jeffs, 66, on Thursday, just two weeks after the Netflix documentary dropped about his crimes. The documentary is currently spending its second week in the top 10 globally, pulling in almost 30million viewing hours.
Jeffs was sentenced to life in prison in 2011 after being convicted of sexual assaulting two children, ages 12 and 15. The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) leader has also been accused of sexually abusing his own children, as well as his niece and nephew, who have come forward with allegations.
The FLDS, a radical Mormon denomination, was founded in 1929 after The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints abandoned polygamy in 1890 and excommunicated members who refused to give up the practice of plural marriage.
Jeffs grew up outside of Salt Lake City, Utah, in a polygamous household. His father, Rulon Jeffs, had around 75 wives and 65 children. Jeffs is estimated at having 85 wives.
The FLDS holds polygamy as a fundamental belief, and its men take multiple wives in what are termed ‘celestial marriages,’ each performed in a ceremony called a ‘sealing.’
The church, which has an estimated 6,000 to 10,000 members, believes polygamy brings exaltation in heaven and a number of marriages arranged in the community involved underage girls.
He appeared fresher and less tired in his older mug shot (left) and pictures (right)
Jeffs’ wives pictured next to a photo of him on the wall
A photo from Netflix’s new popular document showing Jeffs with his wives
Rulon became the spiritual leader of the religious sect in 1986 and was considered a prophet of God. Jeffs positioned himself as his successor before officially taking over as prophet following his father’s death in 2002.
The new documentary exposes the horrific sexual and physical abuse that took place inside an extremist Mormon cult. Jeffs is reportedly still running the cult from behind bars.
FLDS was created in the early 20th century by a group of Mormons who got ostracized from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because they refused to give up polygamy – the act of marrying multiple women.
Polygamy was renounced from the Mormon religion in 1904, when the then-president of the church said it would no longer be allowed in a declaration known as the Second Manifesto.
However, some members of the community did not want to stop the practice since they believed that ‘the more wives and children you have, the higher in Heaven you’ll be,’ according to the documentary.
The documentary sheds some light on the heinous abuse that Jeffs’ victims suffered, with one survivor recalling in the clip how she was forced to marry an adult man when she was just 14 years old.
Another ex-member revealed they were told the abuse they were subjected to was all being done ‘for their salvation,’ recalling: ‘We did whatever it took, even if it was wrong.’
‘Young girls were like a commodity owned by the church,’ another person added.
Throughout the years that he ran FLDS – which has bases in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, collectively known as Short Creek, as well as one in Eldorado, Texas, which is called the Yearning for Zion Ranch – Jeffs brainwashed, imprisoned , and abused multiple women and children, earning him a spot on the FBI’s Top 10 Most Wanted List.
The Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey documentary dropped on Netflix on June 8 and is currently in the top 10 shows globally
In 2005, he was charged with sexual assault of a minor and conspiracy to commit sexual misconduct with a minor after he allegedly forced a then-14-year-old girl to marry her 19-year-old cousin.
During the trial, the young girl claimed that her husband raped and impregnated her numerous times, however, the charges were eventually dismissed.
According to CNN, the case was dropped in 2010 by the prosecutor, after Jeffs was arrested for ‘much more serious charges.’
In 2006, he was also charged with felony accomplice to the rape of a teenage girl. He was found guilty, however, the conviction was later overturned by the Utah Supreme Court, who claimed there was a mistake in the jury instructions.
Police stormed the Zion Ranch in 2008 and arrested Jeffs for a third time, after they found over 400 children and evidence of ‘sexual, physical, and psychological abuse,’ Rolling Stone reported.
Jeffs grew up outside of Salt Lake City, Utah, in a polygamous household. His father, Rulon Jeffs (pictured together), had around 75 wives and 65 children
Jeffs son, Wendel Jefferson – who changed his last name – and his mother and sister have since left the church
In 2011, he was sent away for life after he was convicted of two felony counts of child sexual assault for having sex with two girls aged 12 and 14.
He is currently serving a life sentence plus 20 years for the charges, however, it has been reported that Jeffs has continued to preach to FLDS ‘remaining members from his prison cell.
He is eligible for parole in July 22, 2038.
As of 2018, the Guardian reported that there were still around 10,000 active members of the church.
Many of Jeffs’ former victims – most of whom have since left the cult but still live in Short Creek – have now spoken out and shared their stories for the upcoming four-part docuseries, which was directed by Rachel Dretzin.
‘The first time I traveled to Short Creek, Utah, I had the same first impression as most,’ Dretzin said in a statement to Rolling Stone.
‘With their pleated hair, prairie dresses, and diffident, skittish manner, it was easy to see the young girls and women of the FLDS as odd, even alien creatures.
‘It was almost impossible to believe that a society so repressive, isolated, and extreme could exist in plain sight in 21st century America.
‘And then I started interviewing survivors. The stories they told – of the process of systematic coercion and mind control exercised by the man they thought of as a religious prophet, Warren Jeffs – were far from alienating.
‘After many months spent reporting this story, it was clear to me that these women could have been my daughter, my mother, or me.
‘And it was also abundantly clear that they showed incredible courage and strength in leaving this religion-turned-criminal cult.’
Dretzin described the women as ‘bada **’ and ‘fierce,’ adding that she was ‘proud’ to tell their story.
‘The women in our film managed to leave the FLDS with no real education or skills, no money, no support whatsoever,’ she explained.
‘For their whole lives they had been valued solely as plural wives and as breeders of children.
‘To leave meant saying goodbye to everything and everyone they loved to start over in a society they didn’t understand. Bada ** doesn’t begin to describe how fierce they are. ‘
According to the Daily Beast, Dretzin tells Jeffs’ story ‘with virtually no dramatic recreations, instead relying on a haunting collection of archival photos, home videos, courtroom footage, and recorded evidence to convey the unnerving strangeness of FLDS life.’
Jeffs with one of his 85 wives. Many of the wives were in their early teens
Jeffs (pictured in 2006) is up for parole in July 2038 and is currently spending life in prison in Texas
Like father, like son: Rulon became the spiritual leader of the religious sect in 1986 and was considered a prophet of God and had dozens of wives, much like Jeffs would go on to do
The outlet added, ‘That material culminates with clandestine photographs and audio tapes made by Jeffs of his sexual encounters with his victims, which are so predictably disgusting that it’s no surprise they landed him behind bars, where he continues to create “revelations” that are disseminated to his followers. ‘
One woman, whose identity is unknown, could be heard saying in the trailer, ‘In our minds, the police, even the president of the United States had no authority over us.
‘Warren Jeffs was our president. He was the Prophet. And how could you place a human over God? ‘
Another person stated, ‘To stand up against a multi-million-dollar church, you’re going up against a lifetime of conditioning and fear. Warren Jeffs took over this religion and turned it into money and power and sex. ‘