Polygamist leader sedated, responsive in hospital
SAN ANTONIO – Jailed polygamist leader Warren Jeffs, serving a life sentence for raping two child brides, was under sedation but still conscious in a Texas hospital on Tuesday, prison officials said.
Jeffs, 55, had been rushed to hospital on Sunday in critical condition and was being treated for dehydration and other undisclosed health issues, but authorities denied widely reported rumors that he was in a medically induced coma.
Jeffs, initially treated in a hospital in east Texas, was transferred on Tuesday to the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, where the state has a secure prison hospital facility.
«It is one of our facilities,» prison spokeswoman Michelle Lyons said. «He was stabilized at the hospital in Tyler, and he has now been taken to our facility. When he left Tyler he was still critical, but he was responsive and awake.»
Jeffs, convicted earlier this month of sexually assaulting two girls he wed as spiritual brides when they were 12 and 14, was rushed to hospital from his prison cell on Sunday night after prison officials became worried about his condition.
Prison spokesman Jason Clark said Jeffs had been fasting but was not on a hunger strike.
However, Clark said: «There does come a time if a person goes on a hunger strike, and refuses to eat, that medical staff can make the decision that he has to eat.»
Lyons didn’t say how long Jeffs will remain at the hospital.
«That will depend on his recovery,» she said. «When offenders become ill and need to be hospitalized, this is the standard procedure. We have some 155,000 inmates around the state, and sometimes they require care beyond what we can offer at the facility.»
TO REMAIN IN PRISON SETTING
She said Jeffs would remain in a «prison setting» under guard by corrections personnel because it is a state prison hospital. «It’s a secure setting. It is like he is in a cell, it is just within a hospital.»
Jeffs is the self-named prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints, a polygamist breakaway Mormon sect that has a ranch in west Texas, the Yearning for Zion compound near San Angelo.
Jeffs had commissary items in his cell and had been eating and drinking some before he fell ill, but his limited intake of food conflicted with other medical conditions, Clark said.
He said he couldn’t elaborate on Jeffs’ preexisting conditions due to privacy rules.
Jeffs has declined to eat at other times when he has been incarcerated, and prison officials were forced to seek medical treatment.
At one point officials in Arizona force-fed Jeffs, and officials in a Utah prison ordered him hospitalized for dehydration after he refused to eat.
Clark said on Tuesday he didn’t know how long Jeffs will remain in the hospital. Jeffs is serving his sentence in the high security Powledge Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in Palestine, Texas.
Due to the nature of his crimes, he is in protective isolation — one of just a handful of inmates in the 150,000 convict Texas prison system to be selected for that type of custody to protect them from other inmates.
His unit is not air conditioned, and officials said they did not know if that contributed to his health issues.