One of the many sons of convicted child rapist and polygamist church leader Warren Jeffs is speaking out about his time with his “manipulative” father — and how he is “blazing” a new path for himself, which includes a significant name change.
Wendell Jeffson, 21, was raised on a 1,700-acre ranch near Eldorado, Texas, with his nearly 50 brothers and sisters.
His father, Warren Jeffs, was a self-proclaimed prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS). He rose to fame in the ’90s before being placed on the FBI’s Top 10 Most Wanted List and convicted in 2011 of sexually assaulting two teen girls he married, claiming they were his “spiritual” wives.
In 2007, Jeffs attempted to hang himself in his Utah jail cell and was force-fed at an Arizona jail in 2009. After his conviction, he was put into a medically-induced coma after fasting in a Texas prison and remains behind bars in the Lone Star State to this day.
Several of Jeffs’ children and followers have spoken out since his arrest in 2006, but a new wave of accusers — including some who were closest with him — are speaking out in Peacock‘s new documentary, “Preaching Evil: A Wife on the Run with Warren Jeffs.”
In an interview with The Post, Jeffson described his father’s abuse and threats of eternal damnation as “emotional” and “manipulative.”
“Warren Jeffs controlled everything from the things you eat, to the things you wear and — if he could — even the things you think,” Jeffson told The Post.
His first memory is from the heartbreaking and confusing moment Jeffs separated the then-3-year-old and his siblings from their mothers in Hildale, Utah, to move them to his complex in Texas.
“I wondered why I was being separated from my mom and why she was crying,” Jeffson recently told Insider. “I was very young. I didn’t understand really anything that was going on.”
Jeffson was eventually reunited with his mother — Vicki Thompson, now 42 — when she was moved to the “Yearning for Zion Ranch” six months later.
From a very young age, the children were woken up at 5 a.m. to help with breakfast and cleaning before being sent out to work in the gardens all day.
“There was no music, no internet, no TV, no movies, nothing of that nature,” Jeffson told Insider. “He just created an environment where we were only were exposed to things that he wanted us to be exposed to.
“He had control over the way that we saw the outside world in every aspect.”
Jeffson was 7 years old when his father was detained. He and nearly 500 other children were taken from the compound, but most were eventually returned.
“I remember those Texas rangers and the SWATs coming in with rifles and everything,” he told Fox News in an interview. “I didn’t know if I was going to survive. We had been taught that these people wanted to eliminate us. It felt like it only confirmed what Warren Jeffs had taught us.”
But Jeffson questioned his faith and his father’s teachings from a young age, not understanding why he and his family were told black people were “very evil,” he shared with Fox News, as well as why they were prohibited from wearing short sleeves, eating candy, playing with toys, attending school and choosing their own age-appropriate spouse.
“I grew up having moms that were 15 years old,” Jeffson told Insider. “It’s not right, but he was marrying 12-year-olds and I was told that they were my mom, and they weren’t even that much older than me.”
When he was 14, Jeffson and his family were cut off from FLDS, according to Fox News. They eventually left the church and he wound up working construction, he told The Post, earning money to rent a home for him, his mom and his sister.
After two years of living on their own and gaining their independence, Jeffson, Vicki and Sarah decided to leave the church altogether.
“At 18, I started to gain my own independence,” he told The Post of leaving FLDS — and of his father’s continued influence, even while he was imprisoned. “I could see how much he was controlling our life and that wasn’t what I wanted for my future.”
Jeffson went on to earn his GED before starting a career in insurance. He met singer-songwriter Yolanda Nosakhare, 21, on Bumble and proposed to her in October 2021.
Vicki eventually moved out of her son’s home and fell in love with police officer Aaron Thompson, 50, who had previous knowledge of her harrowing circumstances after spending time as Jeffs’ personal prison guard and as a lead investigator in several FLDS cases. The two married and recently welcomed their first child, Jayden.
Jeffson’s sister Sarah, meanwhile, is graduating from high school this year.
“We’re very happy and moving forward,” Jeffson told The Post. He remains very close with the few siblings who have also left the church but said he has been completely cut off from most of his family who “unfortunately” remained and believe he has been “brainwashed” and “controlled by the devil.”
To honor his new path, he even changed his last name from Jeffs to Jeffson.
“I am moving away from the Jeffs agenda,” he told The Post. “I am blazing my own path and making my own life for myself while at the same time keeping that Jeffs name in my last name because I do want that last name to be made good again.”
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