Warren Jeffs. To some, it is a name that is associated with the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or FLDS. To some, he is a person known for being a polygamist, and a convicted child rapist. To Briell Decker, however, Warren Jeffs was her husband.
"I was the 65th wife of Warren Jeffs," said Decker. The FLDS church leader was said to have 79 wives.
Decker, born Lynette Warner, has bought one of Jeffs' mansions, as she continues to battle PTSD, due to her time in the Church. Decker said her time in one of Jeffs' houses was mostly positive, but the rest of her time in the FLDS Church, and her attempts to escape it, has left her traumatized.
Decker said she has major PTSD, and for her, being back in the house actually helps her cope.
Decker's story began in Sandy, Utah, a city located just south of Salt Lake City, and carried over to the twin towns of Colorado City, Arizona and Hildale, Utah. The twin cities are considered to be FLDS strongholds. Decker said she got attention from Jeffs, at a young age. Back then, her name was Lynette Warner.
"I was just a little girl, but he acted weird. People from ever since I could remember said, 'you're going to marry Warren Jeffs'," recounted Decker. "I had nightmares and things. I would wake up thinking 'oh my goodness, what if it was true?'"
For Decker, the words of people who said she was going to marry Jeffs did indeed come true one day. When she turned 18, Decker's father turned her in to be married.
"I turned around and he had this look on his face," said Decker. "I just remember his look, and he said 'we have to go on a drive.'"
At the wedding, there was no ring, and no white dress. By that point, Jeffs had already been on the run from the law.
After a small ceremony, a kiss made the wedding official.
"He sent my father out and he started to talk to me, sat me down, and I resisted him," recounted Decker. "I didn't know anything. I didn't have any sex education."
The marriage, however, was never consummated. Decker believe Jeffs wasn't really that interested in her, because she was not young enough. Decker said Jeffs took notice that she was different, and she was then sent to houses of hiding across the country, in places like Las Vegas, Texas, and South Dakota.
Jeffs was eventually caught, but for Decker, the torture from church members was only just beginning.
"They told me one time, 'if you kill yourself, we'll tell everyone it's an accident, but if you don't, we'll kill you and tell everyone you did it yourself,'" recounted Decker. She went on to say there was a time when people put a rope with a knot in her hamper.
"In code, that means 'hang her'," said Decker.
Eventually, Decker headed back to Colorado City, where her own brother, following the church, locked her in a room. The room had windows that were nailed shut.
"He went around to all the neighbors and told them that if they saw me, I was trying to escape," recounted Decker.
Decker, however, did escape, running through the town barefoot until a trusted neighbor put her in contact with Krystyn Decker with the Sound Choices Coalition. The group helps women escape polygamy.
Decker, then still known as Lynette Warner, was eventually adopted by Krystyn, and changed her name to Briell Decker.
"I got legally adopted so that, no matter what, I would not be in the FLDS," said Decker.
Decker is now back in Colorado City, and back in one of the houses she and the other wives of Jeffs stayed at. She said she wants to be there for others who flee the Church.
"My dream was to have transitional living," said Decker. "I'm 65 [of Jeffs' wives], the other 78 ladies would have somewhere immediately, when they get out."
When asked if she hopes the wives will all get out, Decker simply said, "I do".
"I know the route that they're going. The psychological abuse, the physical. It's sad. That's heart-wrenching," said Decker.
Decker was able to get the house mentioned in this article, through a charitable trust looking to put property in the hands of former Church members or contributors to the community.
This is the first part of a two-part series. The second part of Matt Galka's story aired on FOX 10 News at 9 on Tuesday, May 16.
To see the story, click here