Filed Under Yearning For Zion Ranch, FLDS
By October, 2005, Laurene had taken all she could of Flora. “Flora lied to me too many times during the custody battle,” stated Laurene. “I knew by then what kind of person she was, but I had to hold on until the custody hearings were over. After that, I wanted to distance myself from her; however, she had control of every aspect of our lives.”
Laurene continued, “I was ashamed of the things the media repeated from my interviews. They twisted my words and left out the positive things I said. I even admitted to them that I still secretly loved Val. One show that came out after one of my interviews, when I watched it I cried. It was so totally incorrect!”
Also, she relates, “the children were not happy.” “THEY MISSED THEIR FATHER,” she wrote, with the emphasis her own. And Laurene loved and missed Val. “I do respect and love Val, a very honorable man, worthy of someone much better than I. There were times when I was alone those four years that I would have let him come to me; however, I knew his values and respected him. He honored his priesthood and never dabbled in immorality, thinking he and I were released. I too stayed faithful to my strict moral code during those long lonesome years alone.”
Then something else happened that even moreso turned Laurene’s heart toward Val, opening her eyes to the prospect of returning to him. “Val sent me two dozen red roses with a note: ‘Love is Eternal,’ an inscription that he had the jeweler etch in my wedding ring. That was the spark that made me go against all odds and call him, which took a lot of courage. Up until then, I thought he only wanted the children. I felt that he would consider me contaminated beyond repair. I thought he would never want me in this life, or the next.” But Laurene was wrong.
“My Father taught me throughout my early life,” related Val regarding Laurene’s return, “if you are not willing to forgive, you have already burned the bridge across which you must pass someday.… I was absolutely crazy over her all the time. I once told the bishop [concerning her loss], ‘There’s a huge hole in my heart.’ “ On their wedding night, Val reassuringly told his new bride, “The Lord will help us bond forever.” That bond was severely tested, but love and a strict sense of commitment prevailed.
While the roses turned Laurene’s heart toward Val, there was yet another incident with Flora that was a clincher, showing her that she had to escape. “One day a group of Flora’s supporters came to the house for a special meeting with me. When they said they wanted to get me a van [so that she and her five children could all travel together in a vehicle that worked], Flora stood up and slammed her fist on the table and said, ‘I have got that covered, I am going to find her a vehicle.’ They were excited to know that she had it taken care of. After my visitors left, Flora turned to me and in an angry voice said, ‘I could get you a van just like that,’ she snapped her fingers, ‘but I am not going to because you will go back to Val.’ She was not going to let those people interfere with her project—me and the kids. That is when it really hit me that I had to leave.”
Laurene continued, “After the roses, I called Val. I had only talked to him a few times during the year-and-a-half. It had been quite a while since I had spoken with him. The times we talked he was angry and I did not like calling him. Flora had also told me that, legally, it would compromise the custody case. After the case ended, she then told me that she had to monitor phone calls between Val and the children, and that if I called him, the Judge would take them from me. However, after I read the order, I realized it did not say that, and Flora had lied to me again.
“This time when I called Val, he was kind and respectful. He told me it was safe to come to Cane Beds. He described his place as quiet and peaceful. He worked hard to convince me that I would not be thrown in jail if I left Maricopa County like Flora had told me. I had a lot of fear, and it took courage to consider going back to Val.”
Time and time again over the years, Flora has lied how, as an FLDS girl, she had been kept in solitary confinement for three years, how she had to escape the FLDS, and even stayed on the run for five years. Now, Laurene was truly, and fearfully, challenged with how to escape from Flora.
“I figured out a plan that I thought she would not get too suspicious of until I got back to pick up the children. To conceal what I would do, I told them that I was going with my sister, who lived in Phoenix, to visit another sister who lived on a ranch on the Arizona Strip.” She was going to have a male friend of hers, Bob, watch the children, whom Flora knew.
Laurene began to effect her plan, one step at a time. Here is her account: “LuAnne [their oldest daughter, who was 16 at that time] and I drove up to Cane Beds [where Val lived]. Val had tied a yellow ribbon on the stop sign at the turnoff. It was 10:30 at night when we arrived. I was afraid of being seen, so he had me pull into the garage, where my car would be hidden the next morning. I knew that Flora had people watching Val, because she reported to me where he was and what he was doing.
“I was still afraid Val might not keep his word, so the next day we called Kim Nuttall in Colorado City, the Mohave County Victim Witness Advocate who had visited me in Phoenix. She had told me that she would be there for me anytime I needed her. I wanted her to witness Val and me make some commitments to each other before I decided for sure what I was going to do.” After making the call to Kim, Val and Laurene drove over to meet with her, hoping that she would be an advocate for their reestablishment, but found it to be otherwise.
“She immediately betrayed me by calling Flora, Judith Morse [Flora’s attorney], Gayle Christensen [a paralegal in Morse’s office], and Linda Walker [an anti-FLDS activist]. The phone calls that I immediately received from these people were nasty, threatening, and vindictive. I hung up and refused to speak to any of them again. I was fearful that the children would be kidnapped before I got back to pick them up. However, I knew Flora was in Mexico, and it would take her some time to get there. But, she might have someone else go to the house and steal the kids.
“Val did not dare go to Phoenix with me to get the children. He and I knew it would have to be my choice. After listening to Linda Walker, who said there would be terrible consequences for me going to Cane Beds, I knew I had to get out of the clutches of those people. The next morning, LuAnne and I rushed back home.”
But, now they had to deal with the obstacle Flora intentionally encumbered upon her—a vehicle that could not accommodate all five children. There was only one solution—make two trips.
“I had not told the children of my decision to go back to their dad, except LuAnne. First, I told the boys that I was going to take them to see Uncle Doug in St. George. Flora kept calling from Mexico, but I would not take her calls. We made the trip back to Cane Beds by way of Las Vegas [with the purpose of keeping it unknown that they were going to meet Val in St. George]. Val met us at the rest stop outside of St. George. I hid in the shadow of the trees so Flora’s spies wouldn’t see us. It was then that the boys found out what was taking place. They had the most shocked look on their faces, then they lit up like Christmas trees. They were so happy! We went on to Cane Beds and stayed the night.
“The next morning, I hurried back to Phoenix alone to pick up the three girls. I had called and told them we were going to an affair that Flora had arranged. Once again, I did not want anybody to even suspect or breathe what was going on before it was done. We left everything we owned, except for a few clothes, and went to be with their father, forever. When we got to his house, Jenny was so excited she jumped out before the car even stopped. Valene clung to her father whom she had only seen twice during the last year-and-a-half.”
Laurene had just completed five 370 mile trips back and forth between Phoenix and Cane Beds, totaling almost 2,000 miles and almost forty hours of driving over four days, all in order to make her escape from Flora. And for Val, even as his people received their families back following the Short Creek raid in 1953, so he received his family back as well. But what about Flora?
“Within a couple of weeks after going back to Cane Beds, I took LuAnne to Phoenix with me to clean out my rented house. I found that someone had been living there while I was away. The neighbors said it was some people they did not recognize.
“Everything in the house had been rummaged. Broken glass was everywhere, the BBQ grill and outside tables were destroyed. Things that Flora had given me were gone, plus much more. The house was in shambles with puke on the walls, etc. Everything of value that I had was gone. The house was locked up and did not have signs of being broken into. Documents on the old computer had been deleted, and the new one was missing. Almost all of our pictures were gone. My purple heart [that had been given to her for courage] was ripped up all over the floor in an obvious array of display.
“Flora and Bob had keys to the house. Bob later told me that she had some of his things that he wanted back. When I first got the place, Flora told me to go make her a copy of my house keys, which I did.
“I had not been there long before Flora arrived. I don’t know how she knew I was there, because I sure wasn’t going to call her. She just walked in like usual and strode right up to me. ‘What did I tell you when you first moved to Phoenix?’ she asked me. I had to admit that I knew what she was talking about. ‘That it would not be easy,’ I said. ‘I told you that at some point you would want to go back,’ she said quite agitated. ‘And then what did I tell you?’ she asked even more impatiently. ‘That it would be too late,’ she answered for me. ‘This is the reason I wouldn’t get you a van,’ she said. Her next question was how I managed with my old car, that was always heating up. I told her that I used my credit card and had it fixed. I remember how surprised she looked. I did not give her any apology. She reminded me that I had agreed to do whatever she said.
“I started to cry and she softened up. ‘I’m glad you can at least cry,’ she said. I asked her if she knew who did this to my house. She laughed and sort of smirked at me. ‘H__l, you just abandoned the place, any F… F… F… could have done this.’
“I can’t remember everything, but we spent a few hours together while she asked me questions. She warned me that the judge would be upset. She went through some anger and then tears, then she seemed to accept it.
“I think she realized she had no more power over me. She said, ‘I told you that if you ever took LuAnne back to Colorado City, I would personally come and save her and take her to Mexico.’ However, she seemed quite satisfied that I was not going back there. I felt sorry for her because I knew she had put so much of her time and emotion into my family. But I was determined that I wouldn’t let her talk me into staying. I just kept saying, ‘I am going back to Val; I am not staying.’ I told her the children hated the hot city. I never confronted her about other issues. I am a non-confrontational person.
“I have no malice toward Flora. I understand her in many ways. However, I know that what she is doing is wrong. I will continue to pray for her and strive to forgive. I understand how hard it is to overcome abuse. It seems that you get stuck at the same level as you were when the abuse occurred. It is a daily struggle that for those who have not experienced it, will never understand.”
Examining the accounts on the internet of Laurene’s prior interviews, there are two misrepresentations that need to be addressed. First, it is often claimed that Val had her handcuffed. What was that about and was it malicious, as it is portrayed? The second question is in regard to their wedding night. It has been stated that Marie was present in bed, hugging Val, when the two consummated their marriage—a very serious allegation in the FLDS community, something that is not tolerated.
We have learned in this account some never-before-known truth regarding Flora and her use of Laurene as her “project,” even as we learned similar truth in the previous article, “Flora Jessop: The Troubled Woman Who Cost Texas $14 Million, and Hundreds of Innocent People Their Peace and Safety.” So what then is the truth regarding these two publicly aired matters?
From an interview with John Quinones of ABC News, Primetime, July 28, 2005, it was stated, “Laurene was once handcuffed by the town’s police, who are, in effect, controlled by the sect.” Laurene added, “I want to be able to walk through town [Colorado City] and not be handcuffed, and if the police officers decide to handcuff me, what to say [to them]?“
What you are about to read is Val’s account of what took place regarding that matter, along with their daughter’s corroboration. It was not until the writing of this article that sensitive matters such as this were discussed between Val and Laurene, and for the first time Val was able to explain to her what actually took place. It was not as Laurene recalled. But keep in mind, she was going through a troubling time and was on medications that had adverse effects on her. In her mind, in the following account she was simply hoeing weeds in her garden.
Val explains, “There are areas in our relationship that are landmines that I try to avoid—when Laurene remembers something completely different than I do. The story of me allegedly having her handcuffed is one of them.
“Marie did many things behind my back, then would deny them, saying that Laurene was making them up. The day Laurene was handcuffed (about early summer, ‘99), Marie had packed up a lot of Laurene’s sewing stuff and put it in the cellar, without consulting her. While Marie was at her job, teaching first grade, Laurene got angry at me and attempted to destroy the sewing machine with a hammer.
“I stopped her, so she went outside. I could see there was no communicating with her (she was on meds that were causing imbalance), so I called the local police station and asked for the officer on duty to come and monitor the situation. When I got outside, I found her in the garden, hoeing up a row of squash plants and cucumbers. I stopped her, and meanwhile officer Rodney Holm came in the backyard with us. She continued to hoe the plants up, so he intervened, asking her to give him the hoe. She told him [in an exaggerated and agitated way], ‘I’m in my own garden hoeing weeds.’
“It was obvious to him something was wrong and that she wouldn’t cooperate, so he placed handcuffs on her and took her to the station. From there, Steven Barlow, who was also at the scene, determined that she must go directly to The Guidance Center in Flagstaff. They took her in the ambulance that evening. [This was Laurene’s first visit there.]
“Talking to our daughter, Jenny, about this , she said, ‘I remember seeing the plants that were hoed up, and mother says she doesn’t remember that.’ “
Val’s account was confirmed by officer Rodney Holm as well. I talked with him by phone and read the account. He agreed with it and said that as a trained officer, “for her safety and mine I had to take the hoe and handcuff her.” I asked him if she was indeed hoeing up the garden plants, or just the weeds. He chuckled a little and said, “She was pretty much destroying anything in her way.” Rod said that he “stayed with her in the ambulance to make sure she was OK.”
Thus we see that there was in fact no maliciousness whatsoever in the handcuffing incidence, but instead a police officer’s required means for protecting Laurene and himself, and therein safely transporting her to where she could be helped.
The second sensitive issue is a matter that Laurene herself did not understand the scope of until, once again, the in-depth examination afforded by this article.
The ABC News, Primetime, report also stated: “Laurene says Marie was bitterly jealous from day one, and was even present when she and her husband consummated the marriage.” She was quoted as saying, “He [Val] invited her into our bed. She just hugged his back—hugged him all the way through.”
The deduction one makes from this is that Val consummated the marriage while Marie hugged his back. But this was not the case. Here is Laurene’s account of what took place.
“When I read [at the time] what John Quinones said, it made sense to me. I never thought it insinuated that we had intercourse together between the three of us. Val is not a pervert and would never have (then or now) engaged in sexual activity with the three of us together.”
Once again, it was not until the occasion of this writing that Laurene even knew what others were thinking took place. She continued, “Today, when Val told me what people think, I was shocked. This is a terrible injustice to all three of us. I am sorry if I gave anyone that impression.”
Laurene is writing a book about her life, initially begun to help resolve within herself some of these matters. She sent me the draft of the chapter that addressed that night, adding, “I wish to keep that time sacred; however, since the world already has their perverted idea about it, it must be corrected.” Unfortunately, thanks to Flora’s destructive intrusion, private matters were aired publicly with falsehood, thereby demanding that they be answered and addressed publicly in truth. These are matters that were best left private, sacred, but unfortunately now demand otherwise.
Upon retiring to Laurene’s bedroom on the evening of their wedding, the two of them sat on the bed, and for a lengthy period of time read from The Doctrine and Covenants, section 132. Val read passages regarding marriage, its sanctity, and its virtue, many of which Laurene could quote from memory, passages that she loved, and did indeed recite some of them. She noted that Val smiled at her, knowing that “they believed in the same principles.”
When they finally reclined in bed, they did indeed consummate their marriage that night. And unfortunately, and certainly uninvited, Marie came down the stairs to Laurene’s bedroom during that time. Wholly unbeknown to Val, she stood just outside the bedroom doorway. Laurene’s bedroom was still under final construction and there was no door. But in the faint light Laurene saw her sister standing there, their eyes even meeting. She and Val were under the covers, and she pulled them up even higher so as to be concealed from this unwelcomed intrusion. She wanted to stop, but was shy and said nothing.
Sometime following the consummation, Marie knocked at the doorway. After a period of silence, that Laurene said seemed to last forever, Val responded. Marie wanted to come in, and Val consented, allowing her to get in bed behind him. This is the occasion that lent to the misleading media report.
Why did Val allow this? “Hindsight,” he says, “I should have never allowed it.” But he did. He was not aware that Marie had been standing there at this very private and sacred moment, and the misunderstanding brought out in the press has created an unwelcomed embarrassment for everyone.
But the fact is, nothing whatsoever took place sexually in that room with Marie in there. The most tragic wrong that took place from this was that perpetrated by the media—over-eager to tell a biased, misleading, unfavorable story—and by troubling anti-FLDS activists like Flora Jessop.
With the difficulties between these two sister-brides that followed, difficulties that Val and Laurene would tell you are an exception in this community and not at all the norm, this matter became a haunting encapsulating reminder for Laurene, seemingly setting the pace for what was to come. The most important event in her life was violated by her sister-bride.
We will now let Val and Laurene close this story, though the account of their lives is still being written. They have gone through many trials, any one of which could have destroyed them and their family. But they are back together. First Val:
“Laurene thought that she was broken beyond repair when she contemplated returning to me; but what she didn’t realize was that I had decided to try and change my thinking, to let the whole Phoenix experience have many lessons in it that God wanted me to learn from. And believe me, I still have a lot to learn!
“One of the first lessons was, Laurene was forced into the situation by the rogue FLDS master deceivers and felt she had no other choice. Why should I turn away from her for being deceived by these men? And secondly, another con artist, Flora, came along at a time when she was most vulnerable and lied to her, promising a wonderful life, which she had neither the power nor the means to produce, much less never intended to fulfill.
“I always loved Laurene through all of this, in spite of my own emotional scars; and I have always believed that AS LONG AS THERE IS LIFE, THERE IS HOPE.
“All the time that she and the children were in Phoenix, I had six candles burning 24 hours a day—one for each of them—placed in the windows of the rooms where they would be sleeping if they were with me. Like the light from those candles, my love for her never ceased.”
From Laurene: “I was so happy when we settled in Cane Beds. It was quiet and peaceful. The children could get out and play in the canyon and mountains. Most of all, they were happy. They liked the smaller school and made friends quickly. They were doing very well. The house was nice and roomy. Everything seemed perfect. Val took me on a trip to Caliente, Nevada, where he and I spent time talking things through. He told me that, even before I went to Phoenix, he wanted me to come back, but had not yet told me this.
“I believe in God and miracles. I plan to continue the healing process of our family. I have visited a Catholic church, but it is strange to me. I went to church with the Mennonites, and even had dinner with them. They are very kind and simple, much like my own people. I have had elders and missionaries from the LDS church try to convert me. I find that after my strict religion in the FLDS, these all seem rather shallow in a way.
Sometimes it feels like I’m living between worlds. I am afraid my own people will never accept me as one of them, and I will never fit in out here. My hopes and dreams are that someday I will be worthy of living among my people. However, I have many faults; and after living away this long, this seems rather distant. I know that God loves me and will guide my path.
“I wonder what the lasting affects might be for LuAnne, Anthony, Thomas, Jennifer, and Valene, who had both parents taken away from them at different times. Our children deserve a time of peace with both parents before they are grown and move away from home. I hope they will stay extra long to make up for lost time and we can all heal here in the northwest where we have moved and met some wonderful people.”
Writer’s note: I want to thank, particularly, Laurene for allowing herself to be so vulnerable about some of these matters. This was not easy for her. As she wrote to me on one occasion, she is embarrassed about many of these things. But as Val often noted to me, she has in many ways been the product of several severe circumstances that were placed upon her by others. Yet, as she has expressed to me, she wisely does not dismiss her own responsibility in these things that she has done.
With this, we hope the very best for the two of them and their five children. Their story continues, and may it ever continue on an upward course. Thank you for sharing about your lives, and giving us an inside look at Flora Jessop.