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Thursday 26 April 2018

Child bride reveals horrors of life under fundamentalist Mormon sect leader

Elissa Wall suffered several miscarriages after cult leader her forced to marry cousin when she was 14

US religious sect leader Warren Jeffs is to be sentenced after being convicted of child sex assault (AP)
US religious sect leader Warren Jeffs is to be sentenced after being convicted of child sex assault (AP)

Chris Baynes

A former child bride who fled a fundamentalist Mormon cult has told how the sect’s leader reminded her she was “the property” of her husband after she begged him to free her from the forced marriage.

Elissa Wall suffered multiple miscarriages after being made to marry her cousin at the age of 14 under the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Now 31, she shed new light on life inside the isolated sect in a documentary about its domineering leader Warren Jeffs, who controlled all most every aspect of his 15,000 followers’ lives.

Jeffs, said to have had 78 wives and more than 50 children in the Utah church, was jailed for life in 2011 after being convicted of sexually assaulting two girls aged 12 and 15. He is believed to continue to preside over the church from behind bars.

Ms Wall was born into the church and said she lived a “very secret lifestyle”.

She said: “We didn’t interact with the outside world. We didn’t go to public school. We were educated, cultivated and bred to be products of the church and the religion."

In 2001, Jeff arranged her marriage to her 19-year-old cousin Allen Steed and she was forced to go through with the ceremony despite her protests.

“I really think at the time it was about submission,” she told Fox News. “I could have become a really big problem for the community and for Warren. I was a little more outspoken than the average girl. But I really think it was about pounding me into submission… I was just the next player he wanted to eliminate and to quickly get control over.”

Ms Wall said she suffered multiple miscarriages after being forced into sex by Steed.

“I was now the property of my cousin,” she said. ”And no matter how resistant I was to him, his job was to get me into submission as quickly as possible… Then the sexual abuse came later as he started to force himself on me and force that my role as a wife was to be at his beck and call and to have his children.

“And when I became resistant to that, then the physical abuse started to take over. And I think the frustration of my cousin, his frustration of being judged for not being a good man because his wife wasn’t submissive and she wasn’t good — that all compounded the problem.”

Ms Wall said she repeatedly told Jeffs, or “Uncle Warren”, she was being abused, but her cries for help were ignored.

“I would describe these occurrences in detail in hopes that he would validate these deep concerns that I had,” she said. But he reprimanded me over and over for not being submissive. Reminding me of my teachings. Reminding me that I was the property of this man and he could do whatever he wanted to me.”

Ms Wall ran away from the church in 2005, when she was 18, and later alerted authorities. She revealed new details of her ordeal on A&E documentary Warren Jeffs: Prophet of Evil.

Jeffs and his church soon became infamous worldwide when he went on the run after being charged with sexual assault of a minor. Police had found evidence one of the women Jeffs called his wives was aged just 12. The fugitive was arrested outside Las Vegas in August 2006, with more than $50,000 (€40,569)  in cash and multiple mobile phones, laptops, wigs and sunglasses in his car.

Steed was later charged with raping Ms Wall but was jailed for just 30 days after reaching a plea deal in which he admitted a charge of solemnising a prohibited marriage.

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