Former Child Bride 'Escapes' FLDS Community With Children
By CHRISTINA NG | ABC News – 45 mins ago
Ruby Jessop's children are thrilled to be off of a strictly imposed all-bean diet ordered by jailed polygamist leader Warren Jeffs.
"It's like they cannot get enough food in their bellies. They want to taste and try everything," Jessop's relieved sister Flora Jessop told ABCNews.com.
Until recently, Flora Jessop said she didn't know if she would ever see her sister again.
Ruby Jessop was forced into an arranged marriage with her step-brother when she was 14 years old, according to her sister and the Arizona attorney general.
"Twelve years ago, I got a call from my sister who has 14 years old and had been placed in an arranged marriage," Flora Jessop told ABCNews.com. "She had managed to get away and I gave her a promise that I would do everything I could to keep her safe. Then, before I could get to her and get her help, she disappeared and was taken back into the group."
Jessop, now 26, managed to flee from a radical faction of the Mormon church called the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, more commonly known as FLDS, earlier this month. She was then able to gain temporary custody of her six children, who range from 2 to 10 years old.
Watch more on FLDS on "20/20: Breaking Polygamy" Saturday at 10 p.m. ET
Her escape was announced on Tuesday by Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne.
"I have been searching for her for 12 years and she was hidden from us," Flora Jessop said. "Every time I got close to the community, they would pack her in a car and move her into hiding, ensuring that we couldn't get close to her."
"It is unacceptable that anyone would be married against her will and forced to live in a community in which she feels unsafe, " Horne said in a news release. "Ruby Jessop was forced into marriage by FLDS leader Warren Jeffs who compelled her to marry her second-cousin Haven Barlow in 2001. Her exact whereabouts were unknown for years until very recently when she was able to escape the town."
The attorney general's office has not provided details on how Jessop escaped or got temporary custody of her children, but said the escape was aided by $420,000 Horne made available. He said the money went towards more deputies working in Colorado City, an FLDS stronghold. The deputies were "instrumental" in helping Jessop and her children leave safely, Horne said.
Horne emphasized the need for more funding at a news conference, saying that the current funds will run out in six months.
"Ruby is one of thousands that have been trapped and abused and held under the regime of Warren Jeffs and she is just so happy to be out and her children are excited and able to go to a school for the first time," Flora Jessop said. "To watch them play with toys and learn to become children has just been amazing."
Ruby Jessop and her children are staying with her sister until they find a place to live. Her attorney has advised her not to speak publicly while the custody of her children is temporary, though her sister says she is doing well.
Jessop's husband Haven Barlow could not immediately be reached for comment. Barlow was in his early 20s when he and Ruby Jessop married.
Flora Jessop claims that after her sister was able to get away, the FLDS would not give her her children and that the Colorado City Marshal's Office, which she calls Warren Jeffs' personal "security force," did "everything they could to block her getting access to her children."
Blake Hamilton, an attorney for the Marshal's Office, vehemently denies the claims.
Escape From Polygamy
"That is absolutely not true," Hamilton told ABCNews.com. "I don't know exactly what she's alleging here, but the Marshal's Office has not gotten in the way of people wanting to leave the community or of obstructing any type of justice being carried out as far as people getting their children."
He says the officers are all trained and certified peace officers and that he had no knowledge of Ruby Jessop ever approaching the Marshal's Office for help securing her children.
Horne has been asking for community support on a bill that would authorize Mohave County Sheriff's Deputies to police Colorado City instead of the Marshal's Office "who are under the control of the dominant church," he said.
"That is one thing that would benefit the community more than any other thing that could happen because it effectively will take away the control and power base that FLDS uses to control the women and children," Flora Jessop said.
Horne said the Marshal's Office is not against extra police protection in the city, but they do take issue with the idea of being de-certified and replaced.
In June, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a complaint against the Colorado City government and the local Marshal's Office alleging civil rights violations.
The complaint alleged the Colorado City Marshal's Office "routinely uses its enforcement authority to enforce the edicts and will of the FLDS; fails to protect non-FLDS individuals from victimization by FLDS individuals; refuses to cooperate with other law enforcement agencies' investigations of FLDS individuals; selectively enforces laws against non-FLDS; and uses its authority to facilitate unlawful evictions of non-FLDS, among other unlawful conduct."
Jeff Matura, a lawyer for Colorado City, denied the allegations made in the lawsuit.
"We'll have our day in court," Matura told the Associated Press in June. He said the town utilities don't discriminate against anyone. "There's not a question on the application that says, 'What's your religion?'"
Flora Jessop left the "complete and utter suffering" of the FLDS community in 1986 and wants to help others who wish to break free from the controlling community. For now, she says she is enjoying catching up on lost years with her sister.
"I never did give up. I never thought I would see the day that I would be reunited with her either," she said. "I've been on cloud nine since I got the call."