Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Exile from polygamist sect sues to see mom
Johnny Jessop turned 18 years old in December, so his childhood is officially over. But for all intents and purposes, it was over when he was 13, when he was forced to leave his family and fend for himself. And now, he's filed a most unusual lawsuit; one in which he doesn't seek money, but rather his mother.

Johnny is one of the "lost boys" -- teenagers who were part of the polygamous religious sect known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and kicked out by the church's so-called prophet Warren Jeffs. Jeffs is now in jail awaiting trial on charges of being an accomplice to rape by arranging the marriage of an underage girl to a man.

Johnny hasn't lived with his mother, Elsi Jessop, in five years, and hasn't even talked to her in the last two. But he tells us he loves her, and knows she loves him. But Johnny doesn't know where his mother is. The lawsuit asks that Jeffs be compelled to put Elsi in touch with her son.

Johnny grew up in the heart of Jeffs' kingdom, the border town of Colorado City, Arizona, in a household with a father married to two wives. He has 13 brothers and sisters that he knows of, most of whom are still in the church. He was never close to his father; only his mom.

It is widely thought among outsiders that whatever is decreed by Warren Jeffs is faithfully followed by his supporters. That's why, at first, Johnny sent a letter to Jeffs in his jail cell asking him to please get him in touch with his mother.

When Johnny received no response, the decision was made to take legal action. The lawsuit alleges that Jeffs has kicked out teenage boys he deems unworthy and who are creating too much competition for the limited number of men needed to continue practicing polygamy.

Johnny has lived a tough life since he was banished as a child. He has lived by himself at time and with friends at others, and gotten into minor scrapes with the law. Things have gotten better over the last couple of years. He is housed by a foundation in Salt Lake City that helps "lost boys." He has a job and hopes to get his G.E.D. But he hopes more than anything that he can be reunited with his mother.
Posted By Gary Tuchman, CNN Correspondent: 3:30 PM ET
  14 Comments
Everyone needs to have their mother! It is criminal what is happening to this group of young boys in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints. They are banished from the community to fend for themselves as teenagers because some 50 year old man needs another teenage woman in his bed? This is totally crazy!
I really feel bad for these children who are forced out on their own for nothing that they personally did, and are trying to make a way. I just don't understand how one can mistreat children and think that it is justifiable.
I hope this teen gets his G.E.D. so he can move forward. He needs an education. I hope that he will win his lawsuit so he can be reunited with his mother. He needs his mother; we all need a connection to family. I hope he will be successful.
Posted By Anonymous Madeliene Bolden; Atlanta, Georgia : 3:55 PM ET
Hi Gary,
He knows his mother loves him? I'd say that the mother of Johnny obviously has a love for Warren Jeffs teachings over her son. I wish him the best, but I'm afraid Johnny will never get the kind of love he is looking for from his Mom. Unless she decides her son is number one, he will be "lost" once more. My thoughts are with him. Take Care
Posted By Anonymous Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif. : 4:15 PM ET
Hi Lorie Ann:
I usually enjoy and agree with your wise and clever comments but today I am hoping that Johnny Jessop does not read your post on this blog. I have tremendous faith in maternal love. I personally feel confident that Johnny's Mother loves him very much and wants to see him but is frightened, intimidated, and controled by Warren Jeff's sect. There is hell to pay when one bucks the system. You have to be strong minded and strong willed to escape. Ask any woman who has survived an abusive realtionship. I KNOW!
Johnny Jessop: Hang in there! Your Mother surely loves you and wants to see you, she just does not know how to break away safely. I hope this lawsuit is successful and you are reunited with your Mom very soon. (((HUGS)))
Posted By Anonymous Betty Ann, Nacogdoches TX : 4:52 PM ET
Gary:

We all have our stories uniquely and positively our own. If two people love each other and the intension is about love, anything is possible.

I hope now with Johnny's story out tonight this child can find his mother without a lawsuit. I hope his mother welcomes him home with love. You never know the situation, she may think she gave the child away for adoption or something based on a strange Jeff's tale.

I found my birth mother after 35 years. Everyone told me it would be impossible and we found each other in 4 months without AC 360. I am sure in the coming days or weeks these two souls will find each other. I hope they welcome each other with open arms.
Posted By Anonymous Renee Bradenton, FL : 5:10 PM ET
Why isn't the state going after Jeffs for the abandonment of these boys? This act seems just as serious as forcing young girls to marry. This seems like neglect at the very least and perhaps a way of removing other children from this cult.
Posted By Anonymous Catherine, Kenosha WI : 5:30 PM ET
This story is so sad. What kind of religion thinks it's acceptable to separate a 13 year old child from his mother? And what kind of mother accepts such a doctrine? There is a lot of blame to go around here. The only innocents are Johnny Jessop and the other "lost boys".
Posted By Anonymous Joseph Kowalski, North Huntingdon, PA : 5:34 PM ET
People are abandoned, abused, and neglected every day by family who are supposed to love them. Sometimes people are just not capable of loving in the way society expects. Sometimes forces greater than them don't allow them to care for their families even if they want to be with their children most of all. Sometimes people are just plain evil (and there is no other way to explain it). I just hope this young man has realistic expectations if this reunion is allowed. I hope he realizes that he has worth regardless of his "family". Family is what we make it. And sometimes we find we are nurtured more by those with no genetic ties to us than those who share our blood. I hope he gets his mom, though. And I hope she has a really good answer as to why she let her baby boy go.
Posted By Anonymous TA Cheramie, Berwick, LA : 5:40 PM ET
Gary/AC360:
Gary, thank you for taking the time in the interview to validate Johnny Jessop on how special the circumstances are in taking on Warren Jeffs in order to see his mother, Elsi Jessop.

But Johnny's demeanor was puzzling. His posture and voice were like a straight line never wavering. I didn't see any anger or hurt in his in his eyes. The feelings inside of abandonment and rage must be screaming inside him. It was an innocent age at 13 to have the wrath of the so-called "men" of this cult shun and dismiss him and others as useless or threatening.

It sickens me that these cowards discounted their own sons for sexual dominance over the young women.

Thanks Gary for continued coverage on this fundamentalist group ruining so many lives in the wake of demented polygamy.
Posted By Anonymous Sharon D., Indianapolis, IN : 5:46 PM ET
Although Jeffs is in Purgatory, has anything really changed? The numbers of this cult, FLDS, is totally amazing and appears to prosper by the neglect of the law to take the steps to stop it. Child labor, entitlement fraud, probably tax evasion and more. I'm afraid Johnny will continue to be a victim, but hopefully he can find a way through this.
Posted By Anonymous linda, bella vista,ar : 7:18 PM ET
Wow, how sad for that poor young man. I can't believe that his mom let him leave in the first place. That is a really strange bunch of people that follow Jeffs. My son only left for college. I miss him terribly, but I know how important this part of his life should be. He is happy and we text often. He knows I am always here if he needs me! I hope that young man's mom reaches out to him.
Posted By Anonymous Kathy Chicago,Il : 8:08 PM ET
i agree that his mother may have a love for warren jeff`s teachings over her son. However in the seculeded world they live in we dont know if she herself is only trapped in the situation. At the very least he has the right to make it known to her that he wants her in his life. Hopefully she will have the strength and ability to escape Warren Jeff`s all-encompassing reign.
Posted By Anonymous marissa, independence, MO : 8:44 PM ET
Hey Gary,

Earlier in the day, I posted about that story(the one with the video) but I was so mad, I forgot to write something.

To Johnny,I really hope you will see your mom again and as soon as possible. Hearing you talk,even with that big voice,it's the 13 year old boy that's asking for his mom. Being a mom myself,I'm sending you a big virtual hug and I'll keep you in my prayers.Keep your head up,you are worth it.

Joanne R.
Laval Quebec
Posted By Anonymous Joanne R.Laval Quebec : 8:55 PM ET
I don't see how Jeffs can be compelled to tell this young man anything. What will they do if he refuses? Put him in jail? I feel for the kid and I suppose it's worth a try but he should be prepared for a disappoinment.
Posted By Anonymous Rod C. Venger, Colorado Springs, CO. : 9:38 PM ET
Come on people! Do we really frown on the life styles of these people. We all dream to have multiple girlfriends, boyfriends, wives and husbands. Some of us dream of having swing partners. These people are living there life the way they want. Should we not respect what an individual chooses? In my past I would be mad and outraged. I have Anderson Cooper and Paula Zahn to thank when it comes to, tolerance, and how we should respect all people, even if it does not agree with our personal beliefs. To those who have there freedom outside of the cult, embrace your freedonm and know that there are lots of ladies out there that would take you in!
Posted By Anonymous Claude Calgary AB Canada : 9:41 PM ET
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