BANNOCK COUNTY, Idaho - Warren Jeffs' presence is alive in Eastern Idaho, as he is still running operations for the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints from behind bars. For the original details of this story, click here: bit.ly/Z1a5AF.
Bannock County Chief Civil Deputy Attorney Ian Service said there are estimates that as many as 10,000 people still follow the accused pedophile's guidance. Service said, however, this repentance mission home run by Nathan Jessop has been in the area between two to five years.
Jessop himself is on a repentance mission, which is described as a place to change behaviors and reeducate young men in the FLDS organization. Jessop first lived in Wyoming before moving to Power County in a home on Siphon Road.
That's when a local Realtor notified Power County law enforcement after they saw locks on all the bedroom doors, keeping someone in rather than locking someone out. Power County obtained a search warrant and found no evidence of abuse.
From the Siphon Road address, Jessop moved to Downey, then to the Clifford Drive address just outside of the Pocatello city limits. It was only seven months until one boy ran away to Holding Out Hope, a non-profit organization in Salt Lake City, Utah, that focuses on helping polygamist families.
On July 10 the boys were removed from the home. Within 48 hours most of their mothers arrived, Service said they were from all different states like Arizona, Colorado and Arkansas.
Of the nine boys that had been under the petition ordering their removal from the home, one had already found an uncle in another state. Service said because he was close to 18 years old, he was removed from the petition.
Two of the boys remain under the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare in foster care, and Service said they indicated they would like to go to public school. Service said because of their age, not indicating how old they are, they still have regular visits with their mother.
Two of the other boys also close to 18 years old were released to parents. The remaining four boys were returned to their mothers, who promised to keep them out of the FLDS system.
"Will those moms still feed them back into their particular cultural system, which is back on these repentance missions with Warren Jeffs, the prisoner, making the ultimate calls on these minors?" Service said. "That's disturbing, but I can't stop that whether I return those boys today or return them a year from now. What parents do and their choices is their right fundamentally."
Service said he's encountered many cases of having to remove children from their homes for a variety of reasons, but this was a first. He said he focused on the welfare of the kids first and foremost because that's what the law has jurisdiction over, not their religion.
"They're the most respectful kids I've ever taken into foster care at that age," Service said. "Well-groomed, well-dressed. But there were the allegations of 'We don't want to be here in this home and this guy's not our parent or guardian.'"
Service said Jessop plead guilty to three counts of misdemeanor injury to a child at a hearing. He will be sentenced officially in September to serve 10 days and jail and two years of probation. It may seem like it's a light sentence, but Service said he couldn't be tried as a legal guardian because he wasn't one.
Service said any time there's a minor that has been officially declared a runaway, their information goes into a nationwide database and indicates which state they come from.
"It's reported they're a runaway out of Idaho or whichever state they're reported in," Service said. "Did Nate Jessop do that? No, and that's what he plead to Thursday that, 'Yeah, I failed to report those boys,' including one of his own sons."
Service continued, "He had two boys under his care that ran away for more than two weeks. That's a problem. Because they're under 18, it's a sensitive problem. We protect out minors more than anything."
Service said this home isn't the only home designated for FLDS members. He said the boys were educated by a group of women living in a home in Chubbuck. One of their teachers is Tammy Jessop, who became one of the high-profile women during Warren Jeffs trial.
Service said many people living or working nearby didn't even know what was happening in the home. He said while abuse is very hard to spot, sometimes there are signs to look for, like strange bruises or even a child eating over often, or complaining they're hungry.