“Dateline NBC” often highlights depravity in the darkest corners of America. On last night’s episode, the show featured the story of cult leader Warren Jeffs and Rebecca Musser, the woman who helped seal his fate.
But before Musser was the key witness for the state against Jeffs, she was married to FLDS leader Rulon Jeffs, Warren’s father. In fact, Musser was polygamist Rulon’s 19th wife.
Did you miss Musser’s story? This is what you need to know about Musser and her background.
Musser grew up in the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (or FLDS) sect. Even as a young girl, she knew that she would one day live in plural marriage.
At 19 years old, Musser was forced into marriage with Rulon, who was 85. Her life became difficult, and she was traumatized and sexually abused on an ongoing basis until 2002. The abuse ended when Rulon died.
After Rulon died, Warren told Musser she would have to remarry. Instead, she ran.
Musser fled from the compound in the night just one night after Rulon’s passing. She climbed a wall that surrounded the family’s home, hidden from armed guards that watched over the property.
Fortunately, Musser had help. Her brother had escaped from the compound prior to Musser’s break. He picked her up and helped her begin a new life.
After her escape, Musser remarried and had two children. She also spoke out about the injustices inflicted upon her as well as those she witnessed.
In 2007, Musser testified against Warren. In sum, she would testify against him 20 times and help secure 11 convictions. On one occasion, she wore a dress in bright red, a color that Warren had banned.
Musser co-wrote a book called “The Witness Wore Red: The 19th Wife Who Brought Polygamous Cult Leaders to Justice” in 2013. The book was well-received. It provided a follow-up to a book her sister, Elissa Wall, had written in 2009 called “Stolen Innocence: My Story of Growing Up in a Polygamous Sect, Becoming a Teenage Bridge, and Breaking Free of Warren Jeffs.”
Since testifying against Warren, Musser founded an organization called Claim Red Foundation. The organization’s goal is to educate people about their human rights as well as provide insight about the use of manipulation as a tool for control. She has also spoken out about human trafficking and other forms of oppression.
Warren Jeffs may have had as many as 87 wives. He was ultimately sentenced to life in prison plus 20 years. He has been incarcerated near Palestine, Texas, and still maintains followers loyal to his teachings.