Roy Jeffs, polygamist’s son who told the world about his father’s abuses, dies at 26

(Rick Bowmer | AP file photo) Roy Jeffs, son of jailed polygamous leader Warren Jeffs, leaves the federal courthouse Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016, in Salt Lake City. Lyle Jeffs and another polygamous sect leader in Utah are pleading not guilty to orchestrating what prosecutors call a wide-ranging food-stamp fraud scheme. Roy Jeffs is former member of the sect.

Editor’s note • This story discusses suicide. If you or people you know are at risk of self-harm, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24-hour support at 1-800-273-8255.

This story has been updated with funeral information.

Roy Jeffs, a son of Warren Jeffs who was among the first to say the polygamous sect prophet sexually abused his own children, too, was found dead Friday in Utah. He was 26.

One of Roy Jeffs’ half-sisters, Rachel Jeffs, said he killed himself at his home in Salt Lake City. She placed blame on her imprisoned father.

“Father didn’t love him. [Roy] knew it,” Rachel Jeffs said in a phone interview. “All of us knew it. We all got told Roy was a bad boy.”

When Roy Jeffs began telling his story in the fall of 2015 about how his father abused him, it gave new insight into the man considered a prophet by people still following him in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

“I remember him saying you should never do this,” Roy Jeffs told CNN in 2015. “And then he did it to me.” A half-sister, Becky Jeffs, appeared on that program, too, to also accuse her father of molesting her.

(Rick Bowmer| AP file photo) Roy Jeffs, 23, son of polygamist leader Warren Jeffs, speaks during an interview Friday, Oct. 2, 2015, in Salt Lake City. Roy is telling his story of being controlled, manipulated and shuffled around the county to atone for so-called misdeeds before he left the group in early 2014.

While Warren Jeffs had already been convicted in Texas of sexually assaulting two girls he married as plural wives, and had years earlier been accused of sexually abusing nieces and nephews, none of his children — estimated to number in the mid-50s to mid-70s range — had yet accused him of molestation.

Roy Jeffs’ coming forward was credited with helping siblings share their experiences, too. Among them was Rachel Jeffs, who in 2017 published a memoir describing her father molesting her and later separating her from her family.

Roy Jeffs left the FLDS in February 2014. The next year, he began giving interviews describing the physical abuse and how he and other children were shuffled around the American West either because they weren’t considered worthy or to perform labor on construction crews. Besides interviews with CNN and The Associated Press, Roy Jeffs spoke to gatherings near Pringle, S.D., where the FLDS have a compound.

Leroy Barlow Jeffs was born June 5, 1992, in Sandy, Utah, at the compound in Little Cottonwood Canyon owned by his grandfather, Rulon Jeffs, then the leader of the FLDS. Roy was named for an earlier FLDS prophet, Leroy Johnson. The middle name came from his mother, Gloria Barlow, Warren Jeffs’ third wife. Roy was the oldest of her four children. Gloria Barlow was from a family of esteem in the FLDS and whom the Jeffs considered political rivals.

Roy Jeffs described the molestation by his father as his earliest childhood memory. He was 3 or 4 years old, he said. Warren Jeffs took the boy in a bathroom. After giving that order never to do what was about to happen, according to Roy Jeffs, his father touched him repeatedly.

(The Salt Lake Tribune file photo) File photo of FLDS 'prophet' and convicted child-bride rapist Warren Jeffs, whose sentence was to be determined by a Texas jury hearing testimony Saturday.

It was the only such episode, but Roy Jeffs said it affected his whole life.

“He made me feel like I had done something wrong,” Roy Jeffs told Year of Polygamy.

At age 14, Roy Jeffs was separated from his mother. It happened after he made a confession to his father. Warren Jeffs, by then incarcerated, required his followers to send him letters describing their sins. Roy Jeffs had admitted to sexual urges, including attractions to some of his stepmothers who were close to his age.

Roy Jeffs was ostracized with other FLDS boys to a ranch in Wyoming. Later he described stops in Colorado and Kansas working for FLDS-connected construction companies.

He decided to leave the FLDS in February 2014, he said, when he realized he would never meet his father’s standards for purity and obedience.

"I might as well leave and maybe have a little fun in life,” Roy Jeffs told the AP in 2015.

Roy Jeffs acknowledged the memories of the abuse and controlling mandates of his father made a normal life difficult.

"If I think about too hard, think about everything that has happened, it just breaks me down real bad," he told the AP.

Roy Jeffs was working for a half-brother with a solar panel installation business at the time of his death, Rachel Jeffs said.

Roy Jeffs’ survivors include his parents and his three full-siblings. Rachel Jeffs said Gloria Barlow and her surviving children remain loyal to Warren Jeffs, who is serving a sentence of life plus 20 years in prison. Those immediate family members cut ties with Roy Jeffs after he left the group, Rachel Jeffs said.

The old FLDS compound in Sandy has been demolished, but Rachel Jeffs said Saturday that she and some of her family were seeking a burial spot for Roy near the old home.

A visitation will be held 6 to 8 p.m. Friday and 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Larkin Sunset Gardens, 1950 E. Dimple Dell Road (10600 South) in Sandy. Services will 11 a.m. Saturday at the same location. Roy Jeffs’ family has established a Go Fund Me account to help pay for funeral costs.