Polygamist leader Warren Jeffs faces life in prison for underage sex
Polygamist leader Warren Jeffs faces life in prison for underage sex. REUTERS

Warren Jeffs, imprisoned polygamist sect leader and convicted child rapist, was in a critical condition at a Texas hospital on Monday, prison official said.

A source close to Jeffs told ABC news that he had not been eating for the past three days after his conviction on child sexual assault charges.

Jeffs, 55, on a hunger strike at the Texas prison where he is serving a life sentence, had become so weak that doctors at the Texas prison induced a coma, source added. He was taken to the East Texas Medical Center in Tyler on Sunday night in critical condition by medical helicopter.

Jeffs has not been eating or drinking as he should, Texas prison spokesman Jason Clark said in a statement. He indicated he was not on a hunger strike but fasting. The inmate also has other medical conditions that have risen to the level of needing hospitalization.

Prison officials said that Jeffs was never in a coma. Although some reports had stated he was in a medically induced coma that was not the case although he was sedated, Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokeswoman Michelle Lyons told ABC news. He has been responsive today.

He was taking in some fluids and some food but he was not eating enough or drinking enough, Lyons said.

Earlier this month, the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, a polygamist sect of Mormonism, was convicted of sexually assaulting two underage girls -- members of his sect whom he claimed were his brides from celestial marriages. In October, Jeffs is scheduled to go on trial a second time to face charges of first-degree bigamy. A conviction could be punishable by up to 99 years or life in prison and include up to a $10,000 fine.

The Texas Department of Corrections confirmed Monday that Jeffs was on temporary medical release, but gave no further details.

Extensive media coverage surrounding the case prompted prison officials last Tuesday to move Jeffs to a solitary cell at the Powledge Unit in Palestine, Texas. The East Texas Medical Facility in Tyler is the nearest major medical center to the Powledge Unit.

Federal health privacy policies prohibit prison officials from releasing specific information about Jeffs' medical conditions.

He did indicate to staff that he was fasting, said Lyons, but he is currently being treated for other medical ailments and conditions.

Jeffs is serving a life prison sentence with no chance of parole for 45 years. He must serve at least 35 years of a life sentence on one of the child-sex charges and at least 10 years on the other charges.

Jeffs' polygamist sect was thrown into the spotlight in 2008 when Texas police raided a large compound near El Dorado and seized more than 400 young children as a result of allegations of systemic sexual and physical abuse.

The children were returned to their parents shortly when a court ruled that child welfare officials had overstepped their authority.
Authorities did recover documents showing that Jeffs took 78 wives, of whom 24 were underage.