Meet The Former Polygamy Leader Who Bought Warren Jeffs’ "Porn Palace"

Willie Jessop is Jeffs’ former bodyguard turned crusader against the church. So, what exactly is he doing by buying this compound? posted on

1. This is Willie Jessop, a former leader and spokesman for the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS).

Rick Bowmer / AP

2. The Utah Sheriff’s office described Willie as having “a passion for violence, weapons (legal and illegal) and explosives” in 2008.

Rick Bowmer / AP

They also stated that, “If anything remotely resembling violence or intimidation occurs, you can be fairly certain that William had a hand in it.”

3. But in 2011 when Warren Jeffs, the leader of the FLDS church, started to purge leadership positions within the church, things changed for Willie.

Salt Lake Tribune, Trent Nelson, File / AP

There are conflicting reports of whether or not Willie was actually ousted by Jeffs. CNN reported that Willie was ousted by Jeffs, along with 44 other members of the church. But Willie has said that he was given a choice to leave, and took it.

4. And for those of you who may not be familiar with Jeffs, he’s currently leading the church from prison, where he’s serving a life sentence for sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault of children.

Utah Department of Corrections, File / AP

5. Willie was Warren’s body guard, and a spokesperson for the FLDS. But since he left in 2011, he’s been outspoken against Jeffs and even called his behavior, “morally indefensible.”

George Frey / Getty Images

“I came to the point where Mr. Jeffs’ conduct was indefensible and have chosen not to defend it publicly or privately,” Willie told the Salt Lake Tribune. “I loved who Mr. Jeffs was, when I thought I knew who he was and who he stood for. But what came to light in Texas is morally indefensible.”

6. He went on Dr. Phil in September of 2011 and said Warren marrying underage girls was “inexcusable.”

7. Still, his newfound anti-Jeffs attitude has faced significant scrutiny, especially with former FLDS members who question his claims.

8. Regardless, Willie sued Jeffs and the FLDS for $100 million in 2012, and was awarded $30 million by default.

George Frey / Getty Images

According to Willie, the sect leaders burglarized his excavating business because he refused to falsify Jeffs’ marriage records to underage girls. As a result, Willie sued and was awarded $30 million after Jeffs chose to ignore the suit.

9. In order to get that $30 million, though, one of Jeffs’ compounds in Hildale went up for auction to start paying off the lawsuit.

The compound includes a mansion with several homes, apartments, a storehouse and a former public school, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

10. It sold on Thursday morning for $3.6 million to Willie Jessop.

Willie was the sole bidder on the property, and the auction finished minutes after it started because there were no other bids.

11. Willie claimed that the reason for all of the double thick walls was to rape and “defile little girls.”

“You could hit those walls with a cement truck and it wouldn’t faze them,” he told the Salt Lake Tribune.

12. The home features doors with the word “Zion” hanging above them.

In the FLDS community, Zion refers to “heaven on earth.” The FLDS believe that when the second coming of Jesus happens, the righteous will be asked to build a city of Zion where Jesus will reign from.

13. And nine raised gardens filled with dead plants.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported seeing dead bell peppers hanging off the plants.

14. Willie called the Hildale property a “porn palace,” where secret rooms were used to commit sex crimes.

Though it should be noted that many of the buildings on the compound were built after Jeffs was incarcerated, and the only building previously used was the school house. Followers believed that by building the structure, Jeffs would be acquitted. Boy were they wrong.

15. It’s not a far fetched claim, considering that the Yearning for Zion ranch in Texas was used as a place where Jeffs and his followers raped dozens of children.

Kimberley Meyer / AP

More than 400 minors were discovered on the Yearning for Zion Ranch, including several who were pregnant, after a police raid in 2008. And the state prosecutor at the time, Eric Nicols, said of the ranch, “These places of refuge were designed to conceal these young girls from law enforcement.”

16. Since the FLDS owes Willie money, and no one else showed up to the auction, Willie was given the property, which he now has to find a use for.

The storehouse, shown above, is one of several buildings now under Jessop’s control.

17. Willie told the Salt Lake Tribune that he’d like to see the school reopened.

George Frey / Getty Images

“Hopefully we can get kids back in that school, that’s number one,” Jessop told KUTV. “We’ve got many children on the streets without an education.”

18. And he plans to tear down the massive walls surrounding the mansion.

Jessop compared the large walls to the Berlin Wall, and hopes that by tearing it down it will mend the splintered community.

19. Whether Jeffs’ followers are aware that the property has been sold and why is unclear, but dozens of former FLDS members showed up to the courthouse and voiced skepticism.

Patrick Dove / AP

“I don’t feel comfortable that it’s all for the good,” Ross Chatwin, a former FLDS member, told Fox. “Is it really going to be for the people, or is it going to be for some personal gain here, something to build himself up as the next new Warren Jeffs or next new leader?”

And Charlie Barlow, another observer, told the Salt Lake Tribune that the purchase by Willie is, “just one step down from Warren,” because it means one man is in charge of the compound. He also stated that if the school did manage to get reopened, he wouldn’t be sending his children there.

20. Jeffs has the option to buy the property back from Willie within six months by paying the $3.6 million bid price plus 6%.

George Frey / Getty Images

Whether or not that will happen is anyone’s guess. But for now, Willie is the owner of the property. Willie’s lawyer, Mark James, didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry.

21. What’s your take on this Hilldale compound and the recent sale to Jessop?


Tell us below.

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