Warren Jeffs still hospitalized but expected to recover
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The health of polygamous sect leader Warren Jeffs improved Tuesday as he was moved to a prison hospital after suffering unspecified medical problems while eating or drinking very little, prison officials said.

Jeffs was awake and responsive when a medical helicopter flew him from a hospital in Tyler, Texas, to a secure prison hospital in Galveston for further treatment Tuesday afternoon, said Texas prison spokesman Jason Clark. His condition was later upgraded from critical to serious.

Jeffs has been fasting, but the other health concerns were the primary reason for his Sunday night hospitalization, Texas prison spokeswoman Michelle Lyons said Tuesday.

"He's not on a hunger strike; he is eating [and drinking]. He doesn't appear to be eating enough,"she said. The hospitalization was "because of the other medical issues not related to his fast."

She declined to specify what those other problems are. It was not immediately clear when he would be released from the hospital in Tyler, Texas. Lyons said Tuesday that Jeffs had not been in a coma, contradicting previous media reports.

The Texas prison system does force-feed inmates if it's deemed medically necessary, but Lyons said Tuesday that Jeffs was not at that point yet. He has been placed in a solitary cell in Palestine, Texas, to protect him from possible violence from other inmates.

Prison officials haven't yet decided whether he'll go back to that cell or to another facility following his release from the hospital, Lyons said.

Jeffs was sentenced to life in prison, plus 20 years, after a jury found him guilty of sexually assaulting the two girls, ages 12 and 15, he took as plural wives. He is also set to go to trial on bigamy charges in Texas in October.

During his five years behind bars in three different states, the 55-year-old leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has previously attempted suicide and suffered open sores on his knees from long periods spent praying, along with fasting-related health issues.

This is at least the fourth time that Jeffs has been taken to a hospital since his 2006 arrest, including a 2007 suicide attempt. In the days after Jeffs tried to hang himself, he was also tranquilized after throwing himself against prison walls and later banged his head against the wall, according to court documents.

Until he was taken to the hospital Sunday night, Jeffs had been healthy since his late 2010 extradition from Utah to Texas. Jailers reported few medical problems, and he appeared healthy during his sexual assault trial, which ended earlier this month.

lwhitehurst@sltrib.com Twitter: @lwhitehurst The Polygamy Blog: sltrib.com/blogs/polygblog