Merril Jessop

Merril Jessop (born December 27, 1935) was believed to be the de facto leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS Church) after its former leader, Warren Jeffs, resigned when he was convicted as an accomplice to rape in 2007, until his removal by Jeffs in February 2011. He was also head of the YFZ Ranch, Jessop has been a lifelong member of the church, his father and grandfathers were former high ranking FLDS officials. Jessop is connected by a nebulous series of marriages to the Jeffs family; several of Jessop's daughters and at least one of his wives were previously the plural wives of Rulon Jeffs (a man old enough to be their great-grandfather) while at least one of Jessop's daughters was a plural wife of Warren Jeffs.

While he was imprisoned, Warren Jeffs reportedly designated William E. Jessop as the rightful successor to the FLDS Church presidency. However, William Jessop remained at official church headquarters in Hildale, Utah. News reports suggested a possible shift of the church's headquarters to Eldorado, Texas, where a temple has been built by FLDS Church members at the YFZ Ranch. As the bishop of the church at YFZ, it appeared that Merril Jessop was the de facto president and the most powerful person in the FLDS Church, until February 2011.

One of Jessop's former wives, Carolyn Jessop, wrote a memoir in 2007 about their 17 year marriage, conducted when she was 18 years old and he was 50. The book includes dozens of allegations of spousal and child abuse, both emotional and physical. Carolyn Jessop left the FLDS Church in 2003 and, after a custody battle with Merril Jessop, won full custody of their 8 children. She is the second woman to leave an FLDS community and gain full custody of all her children, although one daughter, Betty, after turning eighteen, decided to return to her father, then living at the Yearning for Zion Ranch in Texas, and vehemently denies her mother's accusations. In 2009 Carolyn Jessop also won a child support judgment against Merril Jessop in the approximate amount of $148,000 for support Merril Jessop failed to provide his children between 2003 and 2009. As of February 2010, Merril Jessop had still not paid any of the child support he owed. According to Carolyn Jessop's attorney, Natalie Malonis, Merril Jessop can be jailed for contempt for his failure to pay the support he owes his children.

According to his former wife's memoir, Jessop is the father of more than fifty biological children with at least five wives. His senior wife, Faunita, who suffered from mental illness and was the mother of at least 15 children, was literally abandoned by the roadside when the group moved to Texas and became a ward of one of her grandchildren living in the mainstream Mormon community. Jessop is believed to have taken many more wives since the departure of Carolyn. According to his ex-wife's book, Jessop has nebulous business interests that include construction and hotels and has suffered from major heart problems in recent years.

In a National Geographic article published in February 2010, Jessop both praised and discussed his troubled relationship with Faunita (spelled 'Foneta' in the article). Over 5,000 people were in attendance at Faunita Jessop's funeral. "My hand is a bit sore today," Merril was quoted as saying at the end of the funeral after greeting all those who came.

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Carolyn Jessop - Legal Proceedings
... Carolyn Jessop has been involved in several legal proceedings arising from her departure from and knowledge of the FLDS community ... In 2009, Carolyn Jessop won a child support judgment against Merril Jessop in the approximate amount of $148,000.00 for support Merril Jessop failed to provide his children between 2003 ... As of February 2010, Merril Jessop had still not paid any of the child support he owed, and according to Carolyn Jessop's attorney, Natalie Malonis, Merril Jessop's failure to support ...
Carolyn Jessop - Autobiography - Escape
... On April 21, 2003, when Jessop was 35, she left her husband's family and the FLDS church, fleeing to a safehouse in Salt Lake City ... of her children in a contested suit involving the FLDS." Jessop was born Carolyn Blackmore and raised by her parents in Hildale, Utah, with her older sister and younger siblings ... Jessop describes her relationship to her parents as emotionally distant, with her father dominating her mother, and her mother taking out her anger on the children with such regularity that the children soon devised ...
Escape (Carolyn Jessop And Laura Palmer Book)
... Escape is a book by Carolyn Jessop and Laura Palmer ... It discusses Jessop's upbringing in the FLDS polygamist community ... to College, the condition was that she marry Merril Jessop ...