Roy Jeffs was found dead Friday at the age of 26
In 2011, a Texas jury returned a guilty verdict against self-proclaimed prophet and polygamist cult leader Warren Jeffs, convicting him on two counts of child sexual abuse. Weeks later, a judge sentenced Jeffs, now 63, to life in prison, ending decades of evil that shattered countless young lives.
But the full breadth of Jeffs’ criminal depravity wouldn’t be known until years later, when his own children started coming forward with allegations of abuse.
One of those children — son Roy Jeffs — was found dead on Friday in Salt Lake City, Utah, just days shy of his 27th birthday. Roy’s half-sister, Rachel Jeffs, told the Salt Lake Tribune that he died by suicide.
According to the paper, Roy was the first of Jeffs’ dozens of children to come forward, accusing the cult leader of molestation. By speaking out after leaving the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in 2014, Roy inspired several of his other siblings to open up about the abuse they suffered.
In 2015, sister Becky Jeffs appeared with Roy on CNN, speaking to Lisa Ling about the years of sexual molestation they endured.
“He realized he had so much power,” said Becky of her father. “‘What should I do with all this power? I can do anything I want.’ And he did — and it went the wrong way.”
Roy told Ling one of his earliest memories involved his father “sexually abusing me.”
Roy added: “I was about 4 or 5 years old, and this is where my dad did it. I remember him telling me, ‘You should never do this’ … then he did it to me.”
At that same time, Roy also accused his father of engaging in “human trafficking.” The son also said Warren Jeffs violated child labor laws.
“I was sent from a house in hiding, to a land of refuge, which were the compounds, and that’s where it was just a lot of hard labor, and you were supposed to start as young as 12 years old,” Roy explained.
• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.
Her half-brother’s bravery inspired Rachel to write a memoir — Breaking Free: How I Escaped Polygamy, the FLDS Cult and My Father, Warren Jeffs — which was released in 2017 and recounts how her father molested her before separating her from her family.
Rachel has blamed what she said was Roy Jeffs’ death suicide on her father’s abuse.
In 2004, Warren Jeffs’ nephew, Brent Jeffs, filed a lawsuit, alleging his uncle had raped him. Two years earlier, Brent’s brother, Clayne, died by suicide at the age of 28, weeks after accusing Jeffs of molestation.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text “home” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.