Dee Yates Jessop was trying to do something special for his wife’s 51st birthday.
So on Saturday night, Jessop climbed a ridge near Circleville. Jessop’s brother says the plan was to set an arrow on fire and shoot it toward the ground, where it would ignite 51 candles. The candles were set in the shape of a heart with about a 30-foot diameter.
Jessop, who was also 51, never got a chance to shoot the arrow. He fell while on the ridge and died at the scene, says his brother Willie Jessop.
“They were lighting these fire arrows and kind of making it a surprise,” Willie Jessop said in a phone interview Tuesday, “but because it was late at night, it appears he lost his footing and slipped.”
Willie Jessop was not present for the accident, but was told later what happened and visited the scene Sunday. He says his brother fell 50 or 60 feet. The ridge and the heart display were on property that Dee Jessop’s family had recently bought near Circleville in south central Utah.
Dee Jessop was a member of the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Willie Jessop said his brother was the oldest of their mother’s eight children. Dee Jessop had “a large family” of his own, the brother said.
The FLDS’ longtime home is along the Utah-Arizona line. Dee Jessop helped build and maintain a zoo that sat in Colorado City, Ariz., for years. Willie Jessop says the Bureau of Land Management once hired his brother to remove a crocodile found in a pond.
Some children in the FLDS reported less fond memories of Dee Jessop and animals. In court papers and his book, “Prophet’s Prey,” private investigator Sam Brower reported how Dee Jessop would kill animals, some of them tied down, in front of children. Former FLDS member Carolyn Jessop, in her book “Escape,” reported the same thing. Both authors implied he did this to show children how it could be done.
Brower also wrote that Dee Jessop had been the subject of bulletins from law enforcement that expressed concern he would use violence to protect FLDS President Warren Jeffs or harm those out of favor with the church.
But Willie Jessop on Tuesday remembered his brother as a great outdoorsman.
“He was truly a cross between a Steve Irwin and a Crocodile Dundee,” Willie Jessop said.
“He was somewhat of an icon in the community and dearly loved and missed by his family,” the brother added.