Warren Jeffs' condition at a Texas prison hospital has improved from critical to serious, but that might not stop the polygamist sect leader from inflicting further illness and injury on himself in the future, according to one Jeffs expert.
"I don't think Warren wants to be alive," said Sam Brower, author of the Jeffs biography "Prophet's Prey." "He's going to continue to be a problem for Texas authorities."
Jeffs, 55, was hospitalized Sunday for illness at least partly related to his refusing to eat and drink, Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokeswoman Michelle Lyons said Monday. He told guards he had stopped eating since his conviction of sexual assault of minors earlier this month, she said.
Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, was sentenced to life in prison for the assaults on two girls, ages 12 and 15, whom he claimed were his spiritual wives.
Lyons disputed earlier reports that Jeffs was in a coma, but confirmed that he had been sedated. Jeffs was transferred from a public hospital, where he was taken when he was in critical condition, to a prison medical center Tuesday.
The sect leader has caused harm to himself while incarcerated before, including fasting, banging his head against a wall, trying to hang himself with his pajamas, and kneeling for such long periods of time that he developed hernias on his knees.
Jeffs' History of Self-Inflicted Violence,
"When he was jailed in Washington County, he had these lucid moments where he started realizing he really screwed up," Brower said. Jeffs' brother, Nephi Jeffs, told Brower the self-proclaimed prophet admitted to him that he was a fraud.
"I'm not the prophet, I've never been the prophet. I'm the most immoral man on the face of the earth," Warren Jeffs reportedly said to his brother, according to Brower. He also said he had "immoral relations" with his brother and sister.
While serving time in the Washington County jail, he tried to hang himself and threw himself against cell walls headfirst. He was also hospitalized for dehydration and depression, according to court documents.
In 2009, he was temporarily force-fed while in an Arizona jail. Officials put a feeding tube into his nose and would strap him to his bed so that he could not kneel any longer, according to Brower. Blood from where the feeding tube was removed was visible in photos from when Jeffs was moved from Arizona to Utah, Brower said.
"He's setting himself up to be a martyr. He doesn't want his followers to know he's trying to kill himself, so if he calls it fasting, his followers can say he was on a fast and God took him," Brower said, adding that Jeffs predicted his own death before his most recent trial.
When Jeffs was sentenced to life in prison earlier this month, Brower said he assumed that the tougher conditions in state prison would take a toll.
"I had a feeling that the prison walls would start closing in on him pretty soon," Brower said, noting that at county jail, Jeffs had free access to phones that he could use to continue to lead his church followers.
"He could still communicate, still bully, still micromanage his followers there, but the minute he went to state prison and was subjected to cavity searches, head shaving, all of a sudden he's not the top dog anymore. He's not in control anymore," Brower said.
Warren Jeffs to Remain in Texas Prison
Jason Clark, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, said that Jeffs would remain at the prison hospital until he could return to Texas state prison in Palestine. He is scheduled to go on trial again in October for charges of bigamy, which could carry a 99 year sentence. He is currently serving a life sentence plus 20 years for sexual assault of two minors, a 12-year-old girl and a 15-year-old girl whom he claimed were his spiritual wives.
Brower said Jeffs has had a 38-foot statue built of himself that he plans to have erected in Shore Creek, the sect's settlement.
"He is desperately trying to set himself up at the martyr, as somebody to leave this legacy of great leader to his people," Brower said. "So I think he's going to continue to be a problem, and Texas authorities are going to have to decide how far they're willing to go to keep him alive."