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.