Woman Who Escaped Polygamist Warren Jeffs' Church Reacts to Arrest

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," August 29, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE, GUEST HOST: Back now to one of our big stories: the capture of the FBI's most-wanted polygamist, Warren Jeffs. Jeffs was wanted for allegedly forcing teenage girls into polygamist marriages with older men.

We want to get reaction now from a former member of his polygamist church. Flora Jessop was able to escape from Warren Jeffs' church in the 1980s. She now helps other women to escape from polygamy as well. She's the executive director of the Child Protection Project.

Flora, thanks for being with us today. What is your reaction to this huge arrest?

FLORA JESSOP, ANTI-POLYGAMY ACTIVIST: Thank you for having me. The reaction is both elation and fear at the same time. I have been in contact with members of my family and other members of the community and they are very afraid right now for what might happen.

GUILFOYLE: Well, Flora, you have been through this before and managed to escape and you have worked so hard, tirelessly, with other women to help get them their freedom that they want to get out of this situation. You would think that people would just be elated like it's all over, it's behind us now, we are safe. Why is it that they have mixed feelings?

JESSOP: But it's not over. With Warren Jeffs being on the run, there was a buffer between the members of this group and the potential for violence. Now that he is in custody, that buffer is removed and so any one of the members who is a potential witness against Warren is under great threat right now.

GUILFOYLE: Are you anticipating that someone else will immediately rise up to power, I guess in his name, in Warren Jeffs name, to try and take his place and continue with his work?

JESSOP: Well, I think that there is absolutely somebody standing in the wings that is looking to become the next prophet. There is a toss-up right now as to who it will be between two members of the community, but both of those men are actually more brutal than Warren Jeffs was.

GUILFOYLE: And do you know both of those men?


GUILFOYLE: OK, do you want to tell us who they are?

JESSOP: Well, there is a potential for Wendell Nelson or Merrill Jessop, either or.

GUILFOYLE: Now, what about the people that were with Mr. Jeffs? Do you think that they were helpful in trying to get him to be able to escape and elude police this whole time? Because right now they were let go.

JESSOP: Absolutely. They have been — they are part of his network of staying free. He was possibly — I would believe he was up there collecting money from some of his big money men that are operating in Las Vegas right now.

GUILFOYLE: All right. So what do you think the police and authorities need to do at this point to make sure that there is not a creation of another Jeffs?

JESSOP: I don't think that there is anything that they can do to make sure that there is not a creation of another Jeffs and — because there is always going to be somebody that steps up into the shoes of the former prophet. The thing that I think is important right now though is to protect the witnesses against Warren Jeffs...


JESSOP: ...and to get resources into those who want out, who have this short window of opportunity before the chains of another leader get wrapped around their minds.

GUILFOYLE: Well, Flora Jessop, we want to thank you for being here tonight to talk to us. Keep up the great work. I think you are someone who is making a big difference. Thank you so much.

JESSOP: Thank you.

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