'Keep Sweet': What Happened to Warren Jeffs and Where Is He Now?

True-crime enthusiasts will not want to miss Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey on Netflix.

The four-part documentary series takes an in-depth look at the secretive polygamous sect of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS) and the rise of self-professed prophet Warren Jeffs.

In 2008, a raid at the Yearning for Zion Ranch (YZR) in West Texas uncovered haunting evidence of sexual, physical, and psychological abuse. More than 400 children were taken into custody. Jeffs was later arrested on charges of child sexual assault.

What happened to Warren Jeffs and where is he now? Newsweek has everything you need to know.

What Happened To Warren Jeffs?

FLDS

Warren Steed Jeffs was the president of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), a polygamous denomination of the Mormon Church (LDS).

The FLDS is entirely separate from the main Mormon Church (LDS), which renounced polygamy over 100 years ago. The FLDS believes strongly in the practice of polygamy and that men must practice the doctrine in order to attain the highest level of salvation from God in the afterlife.

Warren Jeffs' father, Rulon Jeffs—known to his followers as Uncle Rulon—was the president of the FLDS from 1986 until his death in 2002. He was survived by approximately 20 wives and 60 children.

Warren Jeffs succeeded his father as both president and 'prophet' and continues to lead the FLDS today.

Before becoming president, he served as the principal of Alta Academy, an FLDS private school in Little Cottonwood Canyon. He also held the position of counselor to the church leader.

After his father's death, he married all but two of his wives—one, Rebecca Wall, escaped, while another refused to remarry. He is legally married to Naomi Jessop.

As President of the FLDS, Warren Jeffs was the only person with the authority to conduct marriages and held the role of assigning wives to their husbands. He also could end marriages and re-assign wives and their children to a new husband.

Warren Jeffs LFDS
Members of the LFDS Church, led by Warren Jeffs. Netflix

Arrest

In May 2006, Warren Jeffs was named on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List after fleeing Utah on felony charges of accomplice rape of a teenage girl between 14 and 18 years old.

He was eventually arrested in August 2006 during a routine traffic stop in Las Vegas and agreed to return to Utah to face the two first-degree felony charges of accomplice rape for arranging a marriage between then 14-year-old Elissa Wall and her cousin, 19-year-old Allen Steed.

Wall has since told her story in her 2008 book Stolen Innocence: My Story of Growing Up in a Polygamous Sect, Becoming a Teenage Bride, and Breaking Free of Warren Jeffs.

Whilst awaiting trial, Arizona charged Warren Jeffs with eight additional accounts including incest and sexual conduct with minors.

In relation to the Utah charges, he was convicted of two counts of rape as an accomplice in September 2007 and received 10 years to life in prison. However, his conviction was overturned by the Utah Supreme Court in 2010 due to flawed jury instructions.

Upon release, he was extradited to Texas on several sexual assault charges relating to the arranged marriages of three teenage girls to his older male followers uncovered during a 2008 police raid on an FLDS temple at the YFZ Ranch which found a serious amount of physical and sexual abuse at the ranch.

As a result of the raid, the Department of Family and Protective Services ordered 437 children to be removed from the ranch. In the end, the majority of children were returned to the YFZ ranch but numerous criminal charges were investigated.

In 2011, Warren Jeffs was found guilty of sexual assault of a child and aggravated sexual assault against a child, relating to the raid. Both of his victims were a 15-year-old girl and a 12-year-old girl he had married respectively. He was sentenced to life in prison.

At the time of his arrest, 24 of his 78 wives were under the age of 17.

Where Is Warren Jeffs Now?

Today, Warren Jeffs, 66, is serving a life sentence, having been convicted in 2011 of two felony counts of child sexual assault. He also received an additional 20 years on his sentence and was fined $10,000.

He had resigned as president of the FLDS Church on November 20, 2007, but current members continue to consider Warren Jeff both their leader and prophet.

They continue to campaign for his release and in 2012, Warren Jeffs published a book entitled Jesus Christ Message to All Nations, where he called for action to have him released from prison.

Warren Jeff is believed to be serving his sentence at the Louise C. Powledge Unit in Palestine, Texas.

Warren Jeffs
In tis combinbation image, Warren Jeffs watches his attorney, Walter F. Bugden, make an objection during Jeffs' trial on rape as an accomplice charges September 17, 2007, in St. George, Utah. An inset of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), polygamist Warren Steed Jeffs is pictured on a FBI Ten Most Wanted poster. Getty

In 2019, it was reported Warren Jeff had suffered a "mental breakdown" in prison and was mentally unfit to give a deposition in 2019 in response to a lawsuit filed by a woman who alleged he had sexually abused her as a child.

He will not be eligible for parole until July 22, 2038, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Files.

In 2022, the FLDS compound in Phoenix, Arizona was purchased by pastor Luke W. Barnett, who obtained the property from Brielle Decker, Warren Jeffs' 65th wife who received the property as part of a settlement.

Together, they turned the compound into The Short Creek Dream Center, a refuge for women and children escaping the FLDS and other sex trafficking victims

Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey is streaming on Netflix now.

Specialists from the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) sexual assault hotline are available 24/7 via phone (1 (800) 656-4673) and online chat. Additional support from the group is also accessible via the mobile app.