There has been a lot of news in the last several months concerning the FLDS.
In February of this year the FBI and other law-enforcement agencies conducted a raid on businesses in Short Creek to gather evidence in a massive SNAP fraud case. Eleven warrants were issued and those involved in this fraud at the highest levels were arrested and taken into custody. As a result, the names of Lyle Jeffs and John Wayman have taken the spotlight. A few other names have made the “dishonorable mention” list as well: Seth Jeffs, Nephi Allred and even Nephi Jeffs as someone who John Wayman and Seth met with, on the order of Warren Jeffs, in violation of the terms of their pre-trial release.
But other names have faded away. Names that, for some reason, never really got the attention that they deserved before. One in particular, is Merril Jessop. (Fredrick Merril Jessop to be exact.)
For those who may have already forgotten, Merril spent time in a Texas prison as a result of evidence acquired in the 2008 raid on the YFZ Ranch. On November 8, 2011, he was convicted of conducting a marriage ceremony that was prohibited by law, and was given the maximum sentence for that crime: 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. He was released on parole in early 2015, and may remain on parole until November 4, 2021. (Unless he gets credit for “good behavior.”) Which means he only spent just over three years of his 10-year sentence.
That marriage that he performed occurred in July of 2006, between his barely 12-year-old daughter, Merrianne, and the notorious Warren Jeffs. Warren was 50 – over four times her age. Considering Merril’s involvement his sentence was appallingly light – especially the time actually served.
Through the years Merril has participated in dozens of marriages of underage girls to old men. Merrianne was one of three of Merril’s daughters that he gave to Warren while underage. In total, eleven of his daughters ended up on the list of Warren’s wives, along with a couple of his granddaughters.
Merril wasn’t the only one of his family to be given a prison sentence.
One of Merril’s sons, Raymond Merril Jessop, was convicted of sexually assaulting an underage girl – one of his nine “wives.” She was assigned to him when she was only 15, and he was around 32 – over twice her age. And this wasn’t even her first marriage! On November 10, 2009, he was sentenced to serve for 10 years.
Another of Merril’s sons, Leroy Jessop, was sentenced to a 75-year sentence in 2010 for one count of sexually assaulting a child. Another underage wife. He was also required to pay a $10,000 fine.
In 2003, Merril’s fourth wife, Carolyn Blackmore, escaped with her eight children. She was determined to give them a better life than the one they had in store inside the FLDS. She couldn’t bear to watch her daughters endure the future that she knew awaited them if they stayed.
At first Merril would take the children (and subject them to tactics designed to turn them against their mother – as directed by Warren Jeffs). But he gave up even trying to visit his children after he realized he wouldn’t be allowed to have total control of them.
This father’s love for his children didn’t extend to providing any financial support for them, and indeed, any support will be hard to acquire. Warren Jeffs directed Merril to get all his assets out of his name so that Carolyn couldn’t get anything from him.
In 2009 Carolyn won a child-support judgment against Merril Jessop for nearly $150,000.00, for support he failed to provide his children from 2003-2009. As far as I could determine, he still hasn’t paid anything.
This should give some indication of how much Merril’s children mean to him. Or at least those who are minors and aren’t convicted for sexual assault of a child.
Although he should be jailed for contempt of court for not paying child-support, instead he’s free on parole, and being allowed to visit other convicted felons. A privilege that is practically unheard of in most states. Except Texas, apparently. One can only imagine that whoever is allowing this insanity is looking at the situation as a father just wanting to visit and comfort his sons. These men may be his sons, but they are also his co-conspirators and partners in crime.
Merril has easily earned a nomination for “Worst Father Award.”
When Merril was asked by authorities why he gave away his twelve-year-old daughter, his response was: “I didn’t know it was illegal.”
Seriously?! First of all, I don’t believe that. Secondly, legality aside, what kind of father thinks it’s just fine and dandy to give their twelve-year-old girl to a man more than four times her age? Or to anyone of any age?
Shortly after her marriage she was subjected to something that’s hardly fathomable by decent human beings. Some of her own sisters – more of Merril’s daughters – assisted in tying this little girl to a bed in the temple so her “husband” could rape her. In the name of god. In the name of religion. Under the cloak of being called a sacred ordinance.
This rape was recorded and was entered as evidence in Texas courts.
This man is being allowed more freedom than his victims. While he travels between states, lives in expensive homes, and enjoys the best that life has to offer, his own children are suffering – whether because of his lack of financial support, or having been sold and traded into slavery.
In the United States we have a constitution, and a legal system that is based on the premise that those who are accused of a crime are innocent until proven guilty. We put a great deal of focus on assuring the accused their constitutional rights. They are allowed lawyers and an opportunity to go before a judge and argue their case. Evidence is gathered on both sides, and even if you’re guilty, if you can get a good lawyer, you will likely get much less of a punishment than you deserve – especially if you cry “religious freedom.”
Unfortunately for the women and children who are victims of these monsters, they don’t come under that constitutional protection. They live in a different world – and in the world they live in they are accused, found guilty, and sentenced without ever being allowed a defense – by men claiming to speak for God. Often, they aren’t even told what their supposed sin was. As Lyle Jeffs told men who he was sent to “correct:”
“The first step of earning the Lord’s confidence will be to quickly get a letter of confession as to why the Lord would make such a judgement – if you desire to have Priesthood in your life.” There is no appeal. No defense. No trial. In an instant you lose everything – even in eternity.
He may be free, but at the very least, for the sake of his victims, we can make him famous. Spread his face, his name, and his shame far and wide.
Merril is the father of 54 children, by his first six wives.
- 10 – Foneta Marie Cooke
- 16 – Ruth Pugh Steed
- 14 – Barbara Steed
- 8 – Carolyn Blackmore
- 1 – Tammy Lauritzen Barlow
- 5 – Ireta Cathleen Hammon Barlow
He was also married to:
- Lorraine Steed
- Lydia Ann Barlow
- Sarah Draper Barlow
- Edith Black
- Ellen Grace Steed
- Clea Black
- Madeline Barlow
- Bonita Laree Blackmore
- Alice Joy Allred
- Lorna Lucille Allred
- Norma Hammon
- Ruth Steed
- Leona Steed
- Carol Ann Zitting Johnson
Many (if not all) of this list of women were previously married to other men, but were “reassigned” to Merril after their husbands were cast out for various reasons.