A young man who made a 2016 public appearance in Rapid City two years after escaping a polygamous religious sect has died of suicide, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.
The Tribune reported Sunday that Roy Jeffs, 26, was found dead Friday in Utah after taking his own life.
Jeffs was raised in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or FLDS, a Mormon splinter group that spread from its base along the Arizona-Utah border to other locations in the United States and Canada. There is an FLDS compound near the edge of Red Canyon in rural Custer County, about 15 miles southwest of the small town of Pringle in the Black Hills.
Jeffs was among dozens of children fathered by Warren Jeffs, the FLDS leader who is now serving a lifelong prison sentence in Texas for sexually assaulting underage girls.
Roy Jeffs ran away from an FLDS work crew in 2014 and soon began telling his story. In 2016, he spoke at a screening of the FLDS documentary “Prophet’s Prey” during the Black Hills Film Festival in Rapid City and gave an interview to the Rapid City Journal in which he talked at length about his experience with the FLDS.
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“It’s caused me hell in my life emotionally,” he said at the time. “Every day I get up, and sometimes it’s an absolute battle to find worth in life.”
Jeffs said he was sexually abused as a child by his father and was made to believe that Warren Jeffs was God incarnate.
Roy Jeffs was moved around often as a child and spent some time at the FLDS compound in South Dakota in 2007, he said.
One of his half-sisters, Rachel Jeffs, a fellow FLDS escapee, posted a tribute to him Friday on Facebook.
“I’m proud of Roy for the courage he’s shown in being the first of my siblings to leave the FLDS cult and trying to figure out life the best he could,” she wrote.
Rachel Jeffs also posted a link to a GoFundMe.com page where donations are being accepted toward the cost of Roy Jeffs’ funeral. As of Tuesday afternoon, the page showed nearly $6,500 raised toward a goal of $17,000.
A funeral service for Roy Jeffs will be Saturday in Sandy, Utah.