Fundamentalist LDS Church leader Warren Jeffs tried to kill himself while incarcerated in the Purgatory Jail, according to newly released court documents.

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 » Court filings: State of Utah v. Warren Steed Jeffs

In a mental competency evaluation unsealed late this afternoon, doctors wrote that Jeffs tried to hang himself inside his cell. That led to his January trip to the emergency room, and his return to the jail under suicide watch.

A few days later, the mental competency evaluation said, Jeffs was observed "throwing himself against the walls," which led jail officials to give him a tranquilizer.

"On Feb. 2, 2007, he was banging his head on the wall. He denied any hallucinations at that time but simply described himself as anxious," Dr. Eric Nielsen wrote, noting that a psychiatrist who interviewed him determined the suicide attempts were a "cry for help."

Jeffs was diagnosed with a depressive disorder and ultimately declared competent to stand trial. The FLDS leader was later convicted of rape as an accomplice, a first-degree felony, for performing a marriage between a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin.

This afternoon, a judge in St. George's 5th District Court ordered the sealed documents to be released after requests from news media outlets, including the Deseret Morning News, and a private investigator who has been looking into Jeffs and the FLDS Church for lawyers suing the polygamous sect.

Other papers released include transcripts of Jeffs' jailhouse conversations in which he renounced his role as "prophet" of the FLDS Church.

In a visit that was videotaped Jan. 25 at the Purgatory Jail, Jeffs met with his brother Nephi. In a transcript, Jeffs dictates a message of hope to his followers, saying that the Lord is testing them. Then later, he picks up the phone and tells his brother: "Write this down."

"OK," Nephi says.

"A message from the Lord, God of Heaven, through his former servant, who is not his servant, that the messages I gave yesterday are true, except for the part about being the most wicked, the wickedest man on the face of the Earth since Adam's time. That part is from the powers of The Evil One that were trying to influence me," Jeffs said.

A few minutes later, the conversation resumes.

"OK, just a minute," Jeffs said. "I am not the prophet. I never was the prophet, and I have been deceived by the powers of evil and Brother William E. Jessop has been the prophet since Father's passing, since the passing of my father.

"And I have been the most wicked man in this dispensation, in the eyes of God."

Jeffs urges his brother, Nephi, to write the message down, saying that God had visited him in jail and gave him the opportunity to "undo what I have done."

"And I ask for everyone's forgiveness and say farewell forever you who are worthy (for) Zion, for I will not be there," he said.

"Yes you will. This is just a test," Nephi replied.

"Give this to all the priesthood people, this message to you, all right?" Jeffs said.


"Let everyone see the video who wants to. The Lord wants me to (crying) that he finally shed a tear for, the Lord, his God, who has redeemed his son. He whispers that you, Nephi, need to get a copy of this video before you leave, if you can or order it. You can tell he's still dictating me to tell you, Nephi, before he leaves me to my punishment. To Nephi, you can tell anybody who wants to read this message, or see the video, that they can see it, even apostates and gentiles. That they may know that I have been a liar and the truth is not in me."

Nephi Jeffs told his brother he loved him and said: "This is a test. You are the prophet."

The Deseret Morning News broke the story about the stunning jailhouse conversation in a story in March, and in other stories detailed how Jeffs held "church" from the jail.

In court documents, defense attorneys took note of Jeffs' mental health and medical problems. They also said Jeffs recanted his renouncement, saying it was merely a test.

On Feb. 10, Jeffs made a series of phone calls announcing that he was tested and remained committed to the priesthood of the FLDS Church. Defense attorney Richard Wright recounted one conversation.

"It's been a whole week of attack beyond what you can imagine," Jeffs said. "Finally, this morning I showed the Lord that I was for him and I wasn't going to give in, so be assured I'm for God and the priesthood. ... Though I said what I said, and felt unworthy of it all, I did not deny God and priesthood, I uphold them."

Wright detailed how, in other phone conversations, Jeffs continued to act as FLDS prophet, praying with his members, taking their testimonies and giving spiritual instructions.

Jeffs faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced on Nov. 20. The FLDS leader is also facing charges in Arizona, accusing him of performing more child bride marriages. A federal grand jury in Salt Lake City also has indicted him on unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, stemming from his time on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list.

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