Flora Jessop: The Troubled Woman Who Cost Texas $14 Million, and Hundreds of Innocent People Their Peace and Safety, Part 2
Filed Under Yearning For Zion Ranch, FLDS
Photo: Flora Jessop
“Ruby is a Hostage”
Let’s now move forward to 2001 when Flora began to dramatically enhance her public slander of the FLDS, becoming its chief persecutor. Like the written account from Martha and the interview with Phil, what you are about to read is the first ever account of actual events that unfolded regarding Flora’s oft-touted sister, Ruby, whom she alleged was brutally raped at the age of fourteen. This first-hand information comes from my personal phone conversations with Ruby and her husband, Haven; with Martha; with former FLDS member, Allen Holm, the older brother of Fawn Holm; and email correspondence with Ruby’s mother, Pat. For the first time, the veil of silence, misunderstanding, and false information will be lifted.
Back in Colorado City, Flora’s younger sister, Ruby, made some decisions that would bring her life into an unwelcomed examination and falsely-reported public spectacle, all because of the painful intrusion of her activist sister. On the day that Flora was married, leaving the FLDS, Ruby was born. “Ruby gave me my freedom,” Flora later said. “She was born the day I left Hildale. May 3, 1986.” Flora certainly did not find freedom when she left Hildale, but rather an even greater bondage to the ever-increasing lusts that controlled her life. In reality, the freedom Flora needs from Ruby and others is her freedom from living a life of continual lies and of inciting wrongful harm.
On April 23, 2001, Haven and Ruby had a church wedding ceremony in Caliente, Nevada. But she was being torn at the time as to whether this was what she truly wanted. “I needed time just to find myself,” she said. Her two older brothers had already left the FLDS, and three weeks after the wedding she went to be with them. But she was there for only one week and was already regretting leaving. Joseph, a friend of hers, contacted her and offered the opportunity to return. She gladly accepted and stayed in the home of the always-benevolent Fred Jessop. “I was never so glad to be home,” she rejoiced!
But what about Flora? When Ruby left her two brothers, they called Flora and told her that Ruby had gone back home. This infuriated Flora and she sprang into action to try to force Ruby to leave, uninvitedly intruding into her life. Her plan? She stirred up others and called Child Protective Services (CPS), and in her characteristic style told them an aggrandized lie. Does she believe her own agenda-driven lies? Undoubtedly so. But when CPS interviewed Ruby and her mother, they found no credibility whatsoever in Flora’s accusations. “[Ruby] was wonderful—gave no information of any concern, for anything,” stated CPS director Gene Ashdown to Flora, “and that really, I guess, isn’t a surprise.” In our phone conversation, Ruby told me, “CPS wanted to have Flora there at my questioning, and I said no. I did not want to have anything to do with her.”
Upon her return, Ruby turned to the same home and security that Flora herself had often fled to for help in her own times of trouble, the home Flora later fallaciously described as imprisonment for three years in solitary confinement. But now Flora sought to accomplish the same disparaging accusations relative to Ruby. With ever-mounting evidence, Flora’s reports of events are more than exaggerations, but have all indications of being pathological lies.
• Quote: I don’t know what information you’ve got, but [Ruby’s] been around [since she came back]. And I know one thing, and that is that I was there personally the day after she came back. She was sittin’ there with her family and she was in tears and she says, “You guys don’t know how glad I am to be back.” That’s what she said, and I listened to it. So people that say that she’s there against her will—not true, not at all.… I know for a fact that, yes, there was a time there where she thought that maybe she wanted to leave; but after she was gone for how ever many days she was, SHE WAS MIGHTY GLAD TO BE BACK. She says, “I found out that that isn’t what I want.” (James Zitting, right-hand man to Fred M. Jessop, June 17, 2001)
• Quote: Since [Ruby] went back to Fred’s, you’ve seen her around?… Have you seen her around in the last two weeks?… Well that’s weird. Somebody’s lying to us.” (Les Zitting, James’s older brother who is anti-FLDS and asked him about Ruby, June 17, 2001)
Always an opportunist, in classic Flora fashion all of this made great fodder for falsely and wrongly inciting others against the FLDS, garnering great media attention and financial support. Flora’s efforts, as well as the efforts of other avid FLDS critics, are agenda-driven, media-driven, predominated by flagrant wrongful exaggerations and lies, have included fraudulent Attorney General documents (re., 2002 Napolitano investigations), and serve only to hurt the innocent. In 2004, Flora’s media-grandstanding and intrusive actions regarding Fawn Holm and Fawn Broadbent not only devastated families, but also infuriated other anti-FLDS crusaders, and even resulted in a court ordering her to stay away from the two girls. In 2006, Flora wildly alleged that there was an FLDS baby graveyard with 200 baby graves that were dug in one month and that “night burials” were being practiced, claims that were all proven to be totally false. Even so, she has continued to tell these lies to this day. Continually, she has proven herself to be the proverbial woman who cries “wolf.”
Repeatedly, Flora appealed to her willing listeners, “This is about every Ruby that’s in there that wants to be free.” But the freedom Ruby needs is to be free from the threats of her obsessed sister and those like her who make their lives more difficult and threatened, to be free to raise her family, and for Flora to be free from her own torturous bondage. The revealing fact is, none of Flora’s eleven sisters, or even her own mother, will have anything to do with her. “The reason I dislike seeing Flora is because it is too stressful for me to see and hear what she is doing with her life,” laments Pat.
But with standard purposes of attracting attention, Flora went so far as to file a missing person report on her mother and make it a media issue. In an interview, when asked in typical demonizing questioning if her family suffers retribution among the FLDS members for her public attacks, she stated, “I‘ve been given messages that my mother is paying the price for everything I do.” She is, Flora, but not by virtue of the supportive and caring FLDS members. Rather, she pays the price of a mother’s broken heart for a recalcitrant wayward daughter.
Beginning in 2001, and as recent as this year, Flora has boldly claimed that on the night of Haven and Ruby’s wedding, at the age of fourteen, Ruby “was raped so brutally [by Haven] that she almost died from the hemorrhaging,” and that her mother, only “a couple of doors down,” was not allowed to intervene. Yet Flora is never obligated to tell her source of these repeated outrageous lies. I asked Haven and Ruby specifically about these stunning accusations; and even knowing all that I know about Flora, I was not prepared for their answer. Frankly, based on what I had read and heard, in my own mind I had formed more gracious possibilities, though still surrounding these purported accusations. But I was totally taken aback that the facts were not anywhere near what Flora has viciously spread.
Did Haven brutally rape Ruby and did she almost hemorrhaged to death? When I asked them if this was true, Ruby quickly answered, “Absolutely not! I was never raped.” Haven added, “I absolutely wouldn’t do that. I’d give my life to protect her.” Even before hearing this, two men who personally know Haven assured me that there was no way he would have done that. It was totally contrary to his nature, his character, and his upbringing.
When I wrote Pat about this accusation, she confirmed: “Yes, I was there at the ceremony. Haven would not do these kinds of actions, let alone hurt anyone, and there is no truth in Flora’s claims of any brutality.” The fact is, Haven and Ruby had no sexual relations whatsoever that evening, or even in the days to come, and not even in the months that followed.
Following the ceremony of April 23 and a brief honeymoon in Phoenix, Ruby was not settled with either herself or with marriage. As she stated, she needed time to find herself. She related, “I wanted to wait a little more time and see what I wanted.” “It was something Ruby needed,” responded Haven, “a little more time; and we gave it to her.”
Over the next six months, the two of them communicated very little. When Ruby was more comfortable and sure of what she wanted, their relationship began to progress. One year later, on May 5, 2002, they were married before a judge in St. George, Utah. Ruby was sixteen years of age, and Haven was twenty-one. Only after this marriage did they ever have conjugal relations.
Despite Flora’s repeated lies and accusations that marriages are forced in the FLDS and that men abuse the women, clearly this is far from true. Ruby was in fact given all the time and freedom she needed in order to make her own choice, one she was comfortable with. And consistent with the FLDS lifestyle, there was no abuse whatsoever.
However, during this time when the community was showing patience and care, a dark storm brewed outside. In stark contrast to this peaceful people who prefer the sanctity of silence, the brutally vicious lies of Flora and others flew like hot embers from troubling firebrands. In addition to the rape allegations, other wild claims were made, including that Ruby was being brainwashed, re-educated, even whisked off in secrecy to Canada or Idaho. But by and large, Ruby stayed right there in Hildale. She said she and her mother did take a little vacation and went to visit some friends.
Today, Haven and Ruby remain happily married. And despite the unwelcomed willful intrusion of Flora and others like her, they are living the life they have chosen. Looking back at the struggles she went through in 2001, today Ruby is now able to say with gratefulness, “This is my life, and I would never go back to the world.”
Frankly, I was stunned at their account. It was not at all like what I had read and heard, and I could not grasp how Flora could contrive something so profoundly different. Puzzled, I asked them, “Where could Flora get such a story?” “Where she gets all her other stories,” replied Ruby, “from her head.”
Does the FLDS have flaws? Of course they do. Do they have difficulties within community life. Certainly they do. Would there be conflicts and hard feelings on the part of some individuals? That is inevitable, especially when dealing with teens when they hit those infamous distressing and troubling years. But what I have seen in all my examinations is that, even so, they are a people who strive to do what is right, and who excel immeasurably better in wholesome and right living than society that exists outside of their lives. And most certainly, I have found that the accusations made against them by anti-FLDS critics hold no weight. In fact, the best characterization of these acrid critics is that their accusations are as worthy to be trusted as the testimonies of rebellious troubled teenagers who rant about their parents.
There are many who have left the FLDS who we never hear from, those who could provide a much more realistic assessment of FLDS life without the embittered accusations. But the problem is that no one, especially the feeding-frenzy media, wants to hear from them. They are much closer to reality, even with some of their criticisms. But this is a lynching mob, and the voice of the reasonable is drowned out.
One twenty-three-year-old young man who was raised in the FLDS and had been away for three years wrote on a blog regarding his experience: “I had a very happy childhood free from television, drugs, and abuse.… 95% of the men I knew were honorable and trustworthy.… I personally know every man on that [YFZ] Ranch in Texas. Search the world over, you will not find men more dedicated, more committed, and more focused on living in Peace and living their religion than within that group.” He continued, “half [a figure that is probably closer to twenty to thirty percent] of the children raised within the FLDS end up leaving [of] their own free will and choice,” and “95% of them you will never hear from again.” But, he noted, “5% seem to spread rumor[s] and false accusations everywhere they turn, either because they are lonely and need someone or something to blame, or because they really were hurt or abused and somehow think it’s the church’s fault.”
A common mantra of both FLDS critics and CPS is that the men are “perpetrators” of sexual crimes. But as we just read and saw regarding Haven and Ruby, nothing could be further from the truth. My experience in talking with FLDS men confirms this. One man had waited six months before he even had sexual relations with his wife, another several months as well. The latter man stated, “You have to wait until you are comfortable with one another. You love one another. You respect one another. It is very important that it is the lady’s idea and she is comfortable with it. It is not our place and is repulsive to force ourselves on women. It goes against our moral fabric and goes against everything we have been taught. That is how every FLDS man that I know has been raised. Something of this magnitude in your life is important and comes from love and not lust.”
Despite this reality regarding these peaceable and moral people, Flora sought to incite others with the oft-repeated claim, “Ruby is a hostage.” But Ruby was not and has never been a hostage. Rather, she is the happily-married mother of four young children, two boys and two girls, who love her very much and whose lives are threatened by people like their venomous aunt. Ruby is not the hostage. But rather, it is Flora who is the hostage—hostage to her own blinding hatred and willful pursuit to gainfully destroy those who tried to help her so many times.
If there is anyone who was born and raised in Colorado City who needs to be set free from a “compound,” it is Flora Jessop, the little girl who was “a beautiful child, well loved and enjoyable,” who is held captive by her own walls of bitterness and self-gratifying destructive pursuits. Flora lived a lifestyle that was self-destructive, and now she seeks to destroy those who, even now, still love her. In all my contacts and interviews with FLDS members, I have yet to find a single person who is bitter towards her; they all want only the best for her.
I asked Haven and Ruby one last question: If you knew Flora was telling these vicious lies about you, then why didn’t you say something? Why didn’t you speak up and refute them? “In our culture,” answered Haven, “we’re not out to find problems, or to find fault with other people. We try to mind our own business, and others can live their own lives. If some say something bad about you, you forgive them, turn the other cheek, and move on with your life. Flora really does have family here that love her…,” then Ruby interjected, “but we don’t appreciate what she is doing…,” and in a seamless sentence between the two of them, Haven continued, “and she needs to come out and be honest.”
Somehow Flora missed this instruction about forgiving and moving on with your life, the very thing she desperately needs to do. She is in fact in every way the antithesis of the culture she was raised in, a paradox of all the good and virtue they seek to practice. And instead of adopting their pacifism, she has taken advantage of this quality evidenced in her people as a freedom to tell all her lies undisputed. As a result, she has hurt too many and caused far too much trouble. “Ruby and I were both betrayed,” wrote Flora. No, Ruby survived the insidious attacks of her bitter sister, and Flora betrays herself, her people and loving family, truth, and justice.