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Dad saying little about Utah boy reported as runaway

Posted at 5:28 PM, Jul 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-11 19:28:55-04

MONROE, Utah — This is the last place someone reported seeing 12-year-old Salome Johnson.

His father said Salome ran away from his home, according to the boy’s mother, Sarah Johnson. An investigator from the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office would later tell Johnson that tracks were leading from his father’s house and there may have been an imprint of a duffle bag in the snow.

Johnson suspects something else – that Salome is living and working with the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

“I believe that somebody knows where he is,” Johnson said, “and that they could help if they just had it in their heart.”

Johnson said she was the fourth wife of Rulon Jessop, with whom she had four children. Salome was the only boy and lived with his dad. The girls lived with their mom.

When Johnson decided to leave the FLDS in August, she drove to Monroe to pick up Salome. Then she met Jessop in a store parking lot in Richfield.

“I told him that I was leaving,” Johnson said. “And he told Salome to get out of the truck.”

Johnson went to court to ask for a custody order. In a March 9 hearing, Jessop told the judge he was concerned Johnson would allow Salome to play video games and watch Hollywood movies rather than learn life skills.

“She doesn’t fight against that kind of stuff,” Jessop said, according to an audio recording of the hearing. “She invites it, and that’s why I’ve been insistent that Salome not have time with her.”

The judge gave Johnson custody. Before she could arrange to pick up Salome, Jessop made the report of him running away.

“He hasn’t given any specifics,” Johnson said. “He just said that he ran away.”

One reason Johnson suspects Salome is somewhere on an FLDS work crew is because she’s known other children sent to them, including her own brother.

“He was 14 or 15,” Johnson said, “and they were doing concrete.”

Multiple companies with ties to the FLDS have been fined by the U.S. Department of Labor for using underage workers.

“In my mind, it’s a trafficking case,” said Sam Brower, a private detective working with Johnson’s lawyer to find Salome.

Brower has investigated the FLDS for almost 20 years, including its use of underage workers.

“They’re a commodity as labor,” Brower said. “And I believe that’s why Salome has been, more than likely, been carted off and is working on a work crew somewhere around the country.”

FOX 13 went to Monroe and Jessop’s house. When a reporter introduced himself and said he was working on a story about Salome, Jessop turned around and went back inside the house and closed the blinds.

Jessop’s attorney later told FOX 13 he had no comment.

“I think the big thing is not what they’ve said but what they’ve not said,” Brower said of Jessop and his attorney.

“I’m a dad, and I lost my son for about 15 minutes once at a crowded fair in Southern California. And that was the worst 15 minutes of my life -- ever.

“I would be doing everything I could to find my son if he truly ran away.”

The Sevier County Sheriff’s Office has entered Salome into national databases, Brower and Johnson said.

Brower thinks that office is doing what it can to find the boy, but he worries law enforcement in general tends to see cases like Salome’s as civil custody disputes among members of a religious group rather than as potential crimes.

“When it comes to FLDS children,” Brower said, “there seems to be a disconnect with the authorities, with law enforcement and it seems like Lady Justice with scales in the one hand a sword in other, that blindfold seems to fall off.”

Johnson wants to know her son is safe and to give all her children a good education.

“When they tell you ‘This is what I want to be when I grow up,’ I want them to be able to be that.”

Salome is white with brown eyes and light brown hair. His mother says he’s big for his age – 5 feet 9 inches tall and 165 pounds.

Anyone who has seen Salome can call the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office at 435-896-6471 or call their local police.