Elissa Wall Speaks Out About Her 'Stolen Innocence'

Elissa Wall on being a child bride, surviving polygamy, defying prophet Jeffs.

ByABC News
January 28, 2009, 9:33 PM

May 16, 2008 — -- The recent raid on Warren Jeffs' Yearning for Zion ranch in Eldorado, Texas, which resulted in the removal of more than 400 children from their homes, has thrust allegations of widespread child abuse at the polygamous sect into the national spotlight.

But one of the darkest secrets of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints unfolds at a seedy roadside motel in the remote Nevada desert, where underage girls some as young as 14 are allegedly forced through hasty and secret wedding ceremonies.

Elissa Wall says she was one such 14-year-old who was taken to the motel and plunged into wedlock with no choice but to accept and obey the command of Jeffs.

Sam Brower, a private detective who has spent five years investigating Jeffs and his sect for a number of former members, says the weddings are done "covertly, real cloak-and-dagger like."

Wall, now 21, told ABC News' John Quinones that, "I was trapped. I felt like I had nowhere to turn. I did not want to go through with this marriage. I felt, honestly, what it was like to die."

Wall has documented her terrible ordeal in a new memoir called "Stolen Innocence."

In it, she described in detail growing up in the sect that she says betrayed her faith. She says her wedding was the culmination of a traumatic experience that began when church leaders removed her, her mom and sisters from their family and reassigned them to another man Fred Jessop.

Then, just months after her eighth-grade graduation, Jessop told her she'd be married in a week.

"Deep down inside, I knew it wasn't right," Wall said. "I didn't want to be married at 14. [Sect members] honestly believe, and I did and so did my mother, that God sent down inspiration from heaven, like a strike of lightning, down to the prophet. This was God's word. And we were to follow it, obediently and happily."

During a meeting in the church hall, she learned her husband-to-be was her cousin Allen Steed, 19, whom she said she despised.

"I remember he walked over and I got this really sick feeling in my stomach," Wall said. "Once I found out I was going to marry Allen something in me just rose up and I really resisted."

She pleaded her case to Jeffs, but he turned her down and she was quickly fitted for a wedding dress.