SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A polygamous man who oversaw an Idaho home where nine boys were sent on repentance missions by Warren Jeffs has pleaded guilty to three counts of child abuse.
Nathan C. Jessop entered his plea Thursday in Pocatello and was sentenced to 10 days in jail and two years' probation,
The nine boys were pulled out of a Pocatello home last month after the alleged abuse was reported by a boy who escaped,
Jessop is accused of depriving the boys of food, hitting them with boards and brooms and sending them into the cold without jackets, a Bannock County Sheriff's Office report obtained by the Tribune shows. One boy was kept in a furnace room for at least two days.
Six of the boys were allowed to return to their parents, the Tribune reports. Two who don't want to return to their families are with a foster family. The ninth boy was never found.
Some of the boys, from the ages of 12 to 17, had been living with Jessop for two years at houses in Wyoming and Idaho. Jessop told police the boys are members of Jeffs' Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints based on the Utah-Arizona border.
He told police they were sent to him by their parents because they had been disobedient or in trouble with police. His task was to straighten them out, Jessop said.
He acknowledged physically disciplining them, saying the boys had been hard to handle and had not learned to be obedient.
Jessop, 47, is the son of Merril Jessop, who is serving 10 years in a Texas prison for presiding over the marriage of his then-12-year-old daughter to Jeffs.
Jeffs is in a Texas prison, where he is a serving a life sentence for sexually assaulting underage girls he considered brides. He still reportedly gives orders from there.
Jeffs' group is a radical offshoot of mainstream Mormonism whose members believe polygamy brings exaltation in heaven. Polygamy is a legacy of the early teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but the mainstream church and its 15 million members worldwide abandoned the practice in 1890 and strictly prohibit it.
The boy who escaped reached out to a Utah-based group that helps people trying to leave polygamy. That group reported it to the FBI, which told the Bannock County Sheriff's Office.
One of the boys who was found there told authorities he was sent on his repentance mission by sect leaders because he sent text messages to a girl.
Two of the boys pulled from the home told police that Jessop was on his own repentance mission. That's when sect leaders send people away because they've done something deemed unworthy. Some are allowed to return, while many are not.
One of Jessop's wives, Tammy Jessop, lived in the house too. She told police she was in charge of preparing meals and being their home school teacher. She also taught the boys to make furniture that was sold in Idaho and Utah.
The boys told police they wouldn't get a breakfast if they didn't wake up by 6 a.m. and that the pantries were locked so they wouldn't eat between meals. They said they sneaked out to get fast food using money they earned doing odd jobs. They didn't get any money from the furniture sales, the report said.
The boys said they slept on mattresses that were on the floor and didn't have sheets. They said they had not seen or talked to their parents for months, the Tribune reports.