A week and a half after she was forced to marry her second cousin at age 14, Ruby Jessop, once a member of the polygamist Mormon sect known as the FLDS, called her older sister Flora in desperation.
“She begged me for help and said she was being abused,” Flora Jessop tells PEOPLE. “I told her I would do anything I could to rescue her.”
But before Flora could pick her up from the main FLDS compound in Colorado City, Ariz., Ruby was allegedly whisked away by sect members. Thus began a long search for Ruby, who was hidden from her sister and authorities for more than a decade.
That search finally came to an end last month, when Ruby, now 26, was able to flee the compound, temporarily leaving behind her six children, ages 2 to 10.
At a press conference Tuesday held by Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, and attended by Flora, Ruby and her children, Horne announced Ruby’s escape and added that deputies assisted her in regaining custody of all her children last week.
(Attempts to reach Ruby’s husband, Haven Barlow, were not immediately successful. On the advice of her attorney, Ruby has not commented.)
“Ruby’s one of thousands of women held under the regime of [now-imprisoned sect leader] Warren Jeffs and she’s thrilled to be free,” says Flora, who’s since become an anti-polygamy advocate who co-authored the 2009 book “Church of Lies.”
Only a handful of former child brides have escaped the church over the years, Flora says.
“They were determined to keep my sister as a baby breeder her whole life,” adds Flora. “That’s the reality for women in the FLDS community.”
The FLDS currently has no known spokesperson.