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Former FLDS bodyguard wins bid to take control of church property

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ST. GEORGE — Property once belonging to Fundamentalist LDS Church leader Warren Jeffs now belongs to his former spokesman and bodyguard.

Willie Jessop offered the winning $3.6 million bid at an auction in St. George Thursday. There were no other bidders.

The compound, near Hildale, includes 6.1 acres of land. Ten-foot high walls surround several buildings on the compound. It belonged to the FLDS Church, but was ordered to be auctioned after Jessop won a lawsuit against the church for money he said he lost after other church leaders broke into his construction business and damaged it.

A judge awarded Jessop nearly $30 million in June 2012. The auction was designed so he could start getting money from that judgment. In the lawsuit Jessop claimed leaders of the Fundamentalist LDS Church ruined his business and harassed his family after he had a falling-out with Jeffs.

Jessop said he isn't sure what he's going to do with the property but he did say the 10-foot walls are coming down.

“That kind of bizarre construction, even though it's very nice, it's extremely expensive, and it was used for the sole purpose of what we found at the YFZ (Yearning for Zion) Ranch that brought about the raid."

Police raided the Texas ranch in 2008 after child abuse accusations surfaced.

FLDS Church leaders can still get the property back, but they would have to pay the $3.6 million, plus 6 percent interest, which is about another quarter million dollars. They have six months to do so.

Contributing: Shara Park


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