“Escaping Polygamy” was equally entertaining, adrenaline-pumping, and educational during its four-year run on A&E, before it aired for a year on Lifetime, an A&E subsidiary channel, for the fourth and last season. It captivated viewers by providing an opposite view to glorifying polygamy in shows such as “Seeking Sister Wife” and “Sister Wives.” Unfortunately, some people featured in the show passed away during its time on TV. and in the years after it went off the air in 2019. We studied who they were, and how viewers remembered them.
- 1 Some deaths were violent
- 2 Roy Jeffs passed away in 2019
- 3 Mother and son were killed several years ago
- 4 Tom Green died at 72
- 5 Cast members’ sibling died in late 2021
- 6 A wife in the Kingston clan accidentally killed her daughter
- 7 People nearly died in “Escaping Polygamy” season four
- 8 Causes of death varied
- 9 Many more deaths happened without us knowing
Some deaths were violent
Kingston clan, also known as The Order, is a polygamy group based in Salt Lake City, Utah, associated with harmony and collective work on the surface. However, many women have shared stories of child labor, forced marriages, several forms of abuse, and rough punishments for leaving, actually escaping. Additionally, investigations and convictions of group members have unveiled many other things the clan wants to keep a secret. Some examples include government grants fraud, manipulation to acquire property, internal conflicts, and sometimes even murder or self-harm. Many group members unsurprisingly died from natural causes, illnesses, and accidents, although only a tiny percentage of all deaths became public knowledge.
Roy Jeffs passed away in 2019
Leroy Barlow “Roy” Jeffs, born on 5 June 1992, was one of the best-remembered people who passed away. He was Rachel and Becky Jeffs’ brother, one of the first to accuse his father of wrongdoing, including sexual abuse, and the first child to leave the cult.
Viewers learned about Roy Jeffs’ parents, Gloria, née Barlow, Jeffs, and Warren Jeffs, during the second season, when the show focused on his father, a president and prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), who according to CNN reports had over 60 children,.
Roy reported having a happy childhood filled with gardening and landscaping, but he received little love from his father, and saw his mother suffer psychological abuse. Roy separated from his broader family between 10 and 14, and briefly returned to his father’s massive YFZ Ranch property. He was sent away at 14 for confessing to his father that he was attracted to some of his wives who were close in age.
— Cristina Rosetti 🐝 (@CristinaMartaR) April 22, 2017
Roy returned to the ranch at 16, then worked six years on many projects, primarily doing hard labor at FLDS enclaves. On 10 February 2014, Roy purchased a one-way ticket to Salt Lake City, Utah, after feeling isolated from his family, having a lousy relationship with co-workers, and becoming destitute because the higher-ups didn’t pay him for a long time, and left the cult.
He didn’t think that his father sexually abused him, something three of his sisters reported after leaving the church. However, after he read about their experiences, they triggered suppressed memories, which made Roy see things differently, and he realized his father had touched him when he was six. Roy continued a seemingly happy life after escaping, noting that he was an LGBTQ member and falling in love with things forbidden to him growing up, such as the TV show “Friends,” Disney movies, and singer Taylor Swift.
Sadly, it seemed that he suffered from childhood trauma, and harbored negative thoughts. Roy died on 29 May 2019 from an apparent suicide at his home in Salt Lake City, estranged from most of his siblings, and without seeing his mother for over six years because she was in hiding. His family organized a Go Fund Me account to pay for funeral costs, and his funeral service was held on 8 June 2019 at Larkin Sunset Gardens Mortuary in the nearby town of Sandy, where he was born.
Mother and son were killed several years ago
Enraged Seth Gordon Peterson, aged 25, killed his mom Susan Dye Hansen Peterson, 45, who had 15 children, and brother James Peterson, 23, on 2 November 2016, in a field near a Hiawatha, Utah farmhouse at 6 p.m., three hours after a presumed neighbor reported a ‘suspicious incident’ the police found was not a threat. Seth used a high-powered rifle found at the scene and fled, leading to a five-mile car chase. After deputies cornered him, he left the car and tried to run away, but was captured and booked into the Carbon County Jail. Seth was charged with attempted murder, two aggravated murder counts, vehicle theft, and failure to stop at the command of law enforcers.
Viewers of the show know Susan as the sister of Shirley Dye Hansen Kingston or Shirley Snow, ex-wife of John Daniel Kingston, and mother to Kollene Snow and Shanell DeRieux. Therefore, Susan was Shanell and Kollene’s aunt and mother-in-law to the sisters’ first cousin, Amanda Kingston Peterson, who often appeared in the show. Susan and James were members of the LDS church; she was part of a mentoring group Limitless, and married Shane Peterson, who cared for nine of their children at home.
The family started a GoFundMe Page to cover the funeral costs and help Shane get past the heart-wrenching incident. In April 2018, the court gave Seth a sentence of 25 years to life for the murder of his brother, and a maximum of 15 years for manslaughter. He claimed he ‘saw two demons’, but was using crystal meth – Kollene Snow shared the story about his drug use on social media, and received a mixed reaction because the family believed that he wasn’t himself when he committed those violent acts – perhaps confirmation of drug use.
Tom Green died at 72
Tom Green, who promoted his polygamous lifestyle in the documentary, “One Man, Six Wives and Twenty-Nine Children,” died of pneumonia caused by COVID-19 on 28 February 2021, in Salt Lake City. He was born on 9 June 1948 and growing up was a member of the LDS; he even went on a notable Great Lakes Mission, between 1967 and 1969. In his thirties, Tom converted to a denomination of LDS, because his former church forbade polygamy in the 1890s.
Tom was arrested and charged with child rape in 2002 for having relations with his 13-year-old supposedly legal wife, Linda Kunz, and released on parole in 2007. While he didn’t appear in “Escaping Polygamy,” the cast members saved one victim, Candace, from becoming his wife. After she canceled her wedding and found her footing outside the planned plural marriage, Candace agreed to appear in an online campaign to help people leave polygamy. In a video she filmed for the Holding Out Help non-profit organization started by Tonia Tewell, a polygamous community escapee, she briefly thanked the women who helped her, and talked about her experience wanting to marry Tom.
Cast members’ sibling died in late 2021
Although the family kept the news to themselves, an online obituary for Martha LeeAnn Barlow on 3 January 2022 provided an unfortunate update. She was born on 9 September 1994 in Utah, and passed away on 28 December 2021 in Florida, suggesting that she left the Kingston clan at some point. Her friends and family described her as bubbly, adventurous, friendly and hardworking. They also noted that Martha loved animals, especially her puppy Roxy, and was talented at writing stories and poems, drawing and painting.
Although Martha had many siblings, three noteworthy ones are Yolanda Barlow, “Rosie” Barlow, and Rulon Broadbent, all from St. George, Utah. Yolanda appeared in the show’s fourth season and helped her younger sister Rosie escape the groups practicing the FLDS religion. It’s unclear whether Martha appeared on-screen among many other cult members during some seasons. The same can be said for Martha’s brother, Fredrick Barlow, who passed away more than a year earlier, on 7 December, and her half-brother Lehi Scott Barlow, who also preceded her in death.
A wife in the Kingston clan accidentally killed her daughter
In September 2015, during the show’s second season, Carolyn Hughes, one of the wives of Joe Kingston, brother of The Order leader, crashed her SUV with eight children inside. Another vehicle smashed into the SUV after it went off the road, and one child, her three-year-old daughter Paisley, died on the spot. Carolyn, 24, was charged in April 2016 with negligent homicide, receiving that punishment because no one in the vehicle wore a seat belt.
Emily Tucker, a former member of the Kingston clan who left in 2001, noted that they were taught that Lord would protect them, and wives ‘would regularly fit seven or eight kids in a little Toyota Corolla, sometimes even in the trunk.’ Once again, while likely, it’s hard to say when Carolyn and her children appeared in the show.
People nearly died in “Escaping Polygamy” season four
Fans may also remember a hairy encounter in the show’s fourth season, when someone could have lost their life. Matt, a former Mesa police detective, and Tawni Browning, a supervising producer who researches families and interviews the escapees, were a married couple hired to protect members running away from the cult. However, while the two were escorting Jesse Raynor and his two wives and eight children alongside the cast members Jessica, Shanell and Andrea, a red laser suddenly pointed at them individually.
After Matt realized that it came from a high-powered long-distance rifle, he yelled at everyone to duck and hide behind nearby cars. He then learned that Jesse had been part of a religious militia organization within the Apostolic United Brethren (AUB) religious group he’d fled from in the middle of the night. A respected news publication, The Salt Lake Tribute, confirmed the group’s existence a few months later, which gave credibility to Jesse’s claims that he partook in paramilitary exercises with them in woods in Mount Pleasant, Utah.
Causes of death varied
Our inquiry showed that life was unpredictable. Even people closest to you could have ill intentions, such as the son who killed his mother and brother while on drugs. Some causes of death show the belief that the Lord grants invincibility, because religious leaders who hold the keys to heaven are not enough to avoid disasters, such as a mother killing her daughter in a car crash. We also saw that leaving the cult is only the beginning; those who escape, such as Jesse Raynor, risk their lives during the run. Others flee but cannot adjust to living in the world outside their community, such as Roy Jeffs.
Many more deaths happened without us knowing
Although The Order, AUB, and FLDS lead unusual lives, the reasons for their members’ deaths are usually ordinary. Most never leave the tight-lipped polygamous groups, mainly because they teach their members to mention their lifestyle to others. Therefore, people curious about families in the show, even if they appeared in the background, will only find out about individuals close to “Escaping Polygamy” cast members or victims they have helped escape. In rare cases, local media reports notable deaths, but usually only if they make headlines.