US & Canada

Polygamist Warren Jeffs critically ill amid prison fast

Police holding the arms of Warren Jeffs
Image caption Religious head Warren Jeffs has refused food and water in the past.

Polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs has fallen ill and been sedated, a US prison official has told the BBC.

Jeffs is in "critical but stable condition" after being admitted to hospital on Monday.

Earlier, officials with knowledge of Jeffs' condition told US media he was in a medically-induced coma.

A prison spokesman said that while Jeffs had been limiting his food and water, he also had "other medical conditions" that were serious.

Jeffs, 55, was admitted to the hospital three weeks after receiving a life sentence for sexually assaulting underage followers.

He has fasted during other prison stints in Arizona and Utah, with medical intervention needed. Texas prison spokesman Jason Clark told the BBC.

Jeffs has been losing weight since his trial, and the prison has been monitoring his condition, Mr Clark said.

Jeffs is the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a breakaway sect that believes polygamy is the path to heaven.

During his trial, prosecutors presented DNA evidence to show Jeffs had fathered a child with a 15-year-old girl, and an audio recording of him sexually assaulting a 12-year-old.

An FBI agent said during the trial that fathers who handed over their daughters to Jeffs were rewarded with young brides of their own.

Prosecutors said the religious head had spent years travelling around North America and avoiding arrest, ultimately landing on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list.

He was moved from a penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas to the Powledge prison outside Palestine, Texas last week.

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