Troubled waters in Short Creek after Hildale flood, families left without closure

WASHINGTON COUNTY — In the wake of a tragic flash flood Monday that claimed the lives of three women and at least nine children who were swept away by a wall of water barreling through the streets of Hildale, family of the deceased and members of the community are experiencing additional heartache after learning many of them are being denied access to funeral services due to their lack of standing with the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

"Please say a prayer for the families. and that we can bring the last boy home to comfort the families. We love you all. Gone but not forgotten. God Bless you all," Hildale, Utah, Sept.16, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Hildale-Colorado City Search and Rescue, St. George News
“Please say a prayer for the families. and that we can bring the last boy home to comfort the families. We love you all. Gone but not forgotten. God Bless you all,” Hildale, Utah, Sept.16, 2015 | Photo courtesy of Hildale-Colorado City Search and Rescue, St. George News

The twin cities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Arizona, locally known as Short Creek, have historically served as headquarters of the FLDS church.

However, in more recent times, the two communities have been divided among those who have left the church and those who still follow Warren Jeffs, who is considered a prophet by the polygamous sect. Jeffs is serving a life sentence in Texas after being convicted of crimes related to marrying and sexually abusing underage girls he considered brides.

Many believed Monday’s flash flood tragedy was bringing the communities back together, or at least temporarily uniting them. But after it was made clear in Thursday’s press conference that funeral services for the flood victims would be private, many former-FLDS members lost all hope that they would get to pay their final respects to those who died by attending their funerals.

“They’re making it so the families can’t have closure by not allowing them to even view their bodies – their mothers, their grandmothers – their sisters in this instance – and it’s, we can’t keep living like this,” Hildale resident Leroy Timpson said, adding:

This is not love. This is not God. This is nothing to do with what this community and what we’ve stood for all of our lives and tried to promote love and kindness, it’s not about that anymore. It’s about these people overpowering their sway of mind-control and physical-control of people and, somehow, we’ve got to get people involved.

A total of 16 people were swept away by the fast-moving, deadly waters in Short Creek. Of those 16, 13 were children ages 4-11. The other three – Della Black, Josephine Jessop and Naomi Jessop – were sisters and the mothers of the 13 children.

Sisters Della Black, Josephine Jessop and Noami Jessop, from left, along with other members of their families, were swept away in a flash flood in Hildale Monday. They did not survive the incident, date and location of photos unknown | Photos courtesy of Brian Johnson, St. George News
Sisters Della Black, Josephine Jessop and Naomi Jessop, from left, were swept away in a flash flood in Hildale Monday. They did not survive the incident, date and location of photos unknown | Photos courtesy of Brian Johnson, St. George News

Timpson said a heartbroken brother of the three women called him from California Tuesday afternoon.

“He talked to his mother who is in Canada and said that Lyle Jeffs told her she couldn’t come down and even see her daughter that has passed away – her three daughters – unless she promises not to see any of the children that have left the FLDS religion.”

Lyle Jeffs, Warren Jeffs’ brother, has been leading the FLDS church since his brother’s imprisonment.

The brother of the three dead women said he’s worried he won’t be able to find closure in the death of his sisters and nieces and nephews, Timpson said, without being allowed to attend any of their services.

“(The women were) in their 20s, you know; they weren’t old ladies,” Timpson said. “These were young mothers and he wants to have closure. It hasn’t been that long since they were, you know, eating Sunday dinner.”

Secret funerals

This isn’t the first we’ve heard of these middle-of-the-night burials where those who were not in good standing with the leadership of the FLDS church were not able to attend.

In June 2014, members of the “exiled brothers” community, or those who have been exiled from the FLDS, were denied access to see their mother’s, Loana Silvester Harker Barlow Broadbent, body after she passed away. FLDS members had the body moved in the middle of the night for burial to allegedly keep her banished children from seeing her.

While some have likened the ordeal to body snatching, it’s not clear whether anything illegal has transpired.

“That has been the norm for about the last – I would dare say the last 10 deaths that we’ve had in the FLDS religion,” Timpson said. “They have buried them either in the night or early in the morning or some way so the rest of the family can’t come up to the graveside and have closure.”

Most recently, family members of Walter K. Steed, a former-Hildale judge who was found dead in August after his semitruck went off a 200-foot cliff near the Hurricane Hill Trailhead, were not allowed to attend his services.

The church had taken possession of Steed’s body in a matter of hours after it was recovered and refused to let family members who had left the church pay their last respects.

“He was a judge here for many years – well-known – had 36 children. Fifteen of those children are not FLDS anymore, and not one of them got to see their father. In fact, it wasn’t even 24 hours that the church had possession of that body and they had him buried in the night,” Timpson said, adding:

And then they went and desecrated the grave by making it look like they buried him somewhere else. It was silly. Anyway, there’s evidence about things that are going on that are not right and somebody needs to stop this. Hopefully, they can stop it with this incident that happened just barely.

Timpson said he has no idea why the FLDS church members have been doing this, other than, “just to cause more conflict between family members.”

“It’s a social humanitarian crisis that’s in this community,” Hildale resident Dowayne Barlow said.

“We’ve been subjected in the past through the Jeffs’ church to night burials – these shunning of families at the funerals,” Barlow said. “I don’t expect that we’re going to have anything different here.”

Exiled members

While some of the former-FLDS members chose to leave the church on their own, numerous others had no choice after Warren Jeffs assumed power of the church more than a decade ago. Jeffs fast became known for separating families.

Jeffs has exiled countless members, banning their family from contacting the “apostates” – oftentimes, without reason, especially the men. One of those men in particular was Joseph Newell Jessop, the husband of Naomi and Josephine Jessop who died in the flood along with seven of their children.

“Now, all the men are gone. See, out of those three women, only one of them has a husband that’s here,” Timpson said. “The other two, their husband’s been sent away to go repent by Warren or Lyle.”

Kendall Pipkin Lyle posted the following comment on the St. George News Facebook page:

Can’t waste a tragedy. Another sad point of it is Joseph was kicked out a while back and hasn’t had contact with his family for two years. Then this tragedy happens and they get him back here pronto to read a prepared statement. The FLDS leaders have become the very thing they preach is evil; and so many pawns fail to see it.

“The same mentality that Lyle (Jeffs) has been doing, these Jeffs boys have been taking over our dead and not allowing these families to have closure,” Timpson said, “and it’s happening right now with these victims.”

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  • me2u September 18, 2015 at 11:53 am

    Rather than donate to funeral costs, I think those considering to donate should to so to a good lawyer to establish rights out there. Please someone with capabilities, start this process now.

    • ladybugavenger September 18, 2015 at 12:51 pm

      What rights are you speaking of?
      Remember, their cult has rules. Dismantling the cult hasn’t been done. Maybe this will cause members of the cult to leave. Their hearts are broken, many lives lost. Children being molested, underage spiritual marriages in the name of religion. What rights are you speaking of?

      • SSTEED September 18, 2015 at 4:17 pm

        There is 1 registered sex offender within 5 miles of the house I grew up in in Hildale; there are 83 of them within five miles of where I live in the St. George area. What you’ve been told about the people there is intended to focus your anger toward them. Don’t believe everything you hear. It does happen and I wont deny that or justify it’ but it happens just as much everywhere else. We are hating on a group based on the actions of a few sick bastards.

        • ladybugavenger September 18, 2015 at 5:11 pm

          I know what you are saying about convicted sex offenders. I do understand. The problem is they are not convicted in that community. It happens more than anyone wants to admit. And SSteed I get it cuz its easy to compare convicted sex offenders in one community to another community. I’ll say this: the plugs have been respectful to me when I would see them shopping, and respect is not the issue. You gotta admit Warren Jeff’s still has a hold on that community but we can compare this to other communities and we can come to the conclusion that evil is everywhere.

          • ladybugavenger September 18, 2015 at 5:13 pm

            Sorry for the typo. My phone doesn’t like the word plygs so I’ll say *polygamist not plugs 🙂

          • fun bag September 19, 2015 at 11:17 am

            The evil up there flourishes because the mormons in charge of utah let it. They are the enablers of evil. Does that make them evil as well?

        • Simone September 18, 2015 at 9:28 pm

          I can’t speak for anyone else here but I would venture to say that “There is [only] 1 registered sex offender within 5 miles of the house [you] grew up in in Hildale…” is because most of the cops and judicial authorities out there were corrupt followers of the Jeffs clan and, lets face it, they weren’t exactly the “Men of God: they claimed to be.

        • 42214 September 19, 2015 at 8:10 am

          That’s because they weren’t reported or prosecuted. They were condoned.

      • fun bag September 18, 2015 at 7:36 pm


        • SSTEED September 19, 2015 at 9:45 am

          My dear old Daddy was a justice of the peace; as in: he dealt with minor traffic stuff and weddings. I know it makes you feel uncomfortable to find out that you are completely full of crap, but whatever helps you sleep at night. Its not your fault you don’t know what you are talking about when the only exposure you have to the pligs is the media. Every case is highly publisised and associated with everyone in the town. My prophet is right were he belongs and his brother Lyle really ought to join him in my opinion. #FUN=DEUCHE

          • native born new mexican September 19, 2015 at 1:12 pm

            ssteed thank you for your honesty. I want to extend my personal regrets to you for all that went on with your father. With out going into detail I know how it feels to have serious heartbreaking family problems. my best to you.

          • fun bag September 19, 2015 at 4:27 pm

            I read an article that talked about ur dad basically being owned by the plig leadership. I’m sure he covered up a lot more than we know about. It also talked about him charging a lot of the young men with frivolous things in order to help drive them out of pligville. The pligville cops and ur dad and the whole justice system was controlled by the prophet from what i read. And the LDS leadership (whether church or state–same thing in utah) knew about all of it and enabled it. Got to love mormons… But from what i read, if a case of rape or molestation was investigated by the plig cops then it was referred to your father, even with him being a lower court judge. That’s how the pligs keep things on the hush hush

    • Real Life September 18, 2015 at 1:57 pm

      Absolutely me2.

  • Mean Momma September 18, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    Pure evil

  • anybody home September 18, 2015 at 5:08 pm

    A religion built on exclusion has no leg when a faction of that religion practices its own kind of exclusion. People who choose to stay in religions that deliberately exclude others even in the face of great family loss have no reason to complain about anything ever.

    • munchie September 18, 2015 at 7:19 pm

      Good call AH. I have seen a couple of my co-workers not allowed to attend their childrens weddings because they are not “worthy”. I’ve never understood it.

      • fun bag September 18, 2015 at 9:01 pm

        cult is as cult does

      • 42214 September 18, 2015 at 10:22 pm

        I know a guy who told me he had to take a loan to pay back tithing in order to be Temple worthy to attend his son’s wedding. Sorry but I can’t even begin to understand how this can be called a church. It’s as sleezy as televangelists ripping off old ladies.

      • Simone September 19, 2015 at 1:06 am

        Me either. It’s reason #7123789457357854367875447653854586544 why I am not a Mormon.

  • fun bag September 18, 2015 at 10:02 pm

    we allowed to ask SSTEED about his dad the poligamist judge and his ties to warran jeffs or no?

  • debbie September 18, 2015 at 10:08 pm

    Well, I just don’t know about certain communities, their rules, their regulations, enemies, friends.. the likes.. What I do know about is pain. I suspect all involved r feeling an aweful lot of it, and pain makes people cross and do many a strange thing. Closure cannot always come in ways we expect.. I tried when i lost my father to find it at his funeral.. it wasn’t there. He wasn’t there. His soul went with his lord that he loved so very much.. The closure I found was in memories of learning to tell time on a toy clock sitting on his knee.. It was donald duck sounds he made to make us giggle when we were little.. closure was hearing his laughter in my mind after a funny joke.. the best closure was knowing that i honored his memory doing as many positive things as i could in his name.. I did that to counter anything I felt unjust about his passing.. and oh, did i feel his passing was too early. Buying shoes for a needy child… thats what dad would have done.. buying my family food.. thats what dad would have done.. thats the closure I got, in carrying on his goodness… that is what keeps him alive.. So sorry to both sides of this community b/c i’ve known people from all thruout this area.. and its a crime shame they have ills towards one another and those who have left b/c they all have goodness in them.. and i’ve seen it.. and goodness begots goodness.. being good to someone you feel needs a life changing event.. can cause them to do more good.. praying that God speed comfort to everyone.

    • Accountable September 19, 2015 at 8:10 am

      Debbie, your message is a great expression of love and forgiveness.

      • fun bag September 19, 2015 at 11:21 am

        ^^^^ trolly the troll be quiet

      • native born new mexican September 19, 2015 at 1:16 pm

        I agree accountable.

        • fun bag September 19, 2015 at 4:20 pm

          NM are u a man or a woman?

          • ladybugavenger September 19, 2015 at 11:54 pm


        • Accountable September 19, 2015 at 9:40 pm

          Thank you Native Born 🙂

          • fun bag September 20, 2015 at 12:23 am

            No, Thank you Trolly 🙂 xo

  • Real Life September 19, 2015 at 11:05 pm

    Why do pedophiles get a free pass in Washington county?

    • fun bag September 20, 2015 at 12:22 am

      it’s because they are prophets and holy men, and prophets gotta stick together–just ask Tommy Monson…

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