Documents could play role in criminal probe of FLDS sect
Warren Jeffs, the jailed leader of the nation’s largest polygamist sect under investigation for sex with underage girls, married off his 15-year-old daughter to the 34-year-old son of his chief deputy, according to pictures, diaries and a marriage record obtained Friday by the Houston Chronicle.
In May, a series of similar scrapbook photos of young girls surfaced in court, showing very young girls in romantic kissing embraces with Jeffs, including a girl he married, who documents now indicate was 11 years old at the time.
But the documents involving Jeffs’ underage daughter show that marriages of teen girls were not customs practiced only by some, but included the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints‘ leader, who sect members believe takes his orders directly from God.
Last year, Jeffs was convicted in Utah on two counts of accomplice to rape for his role in forcing a 14-year-old to marry her 19-year-old cousin.
The documents were attached to a report filed Friday by Court-Appointed Special Advocates, also known as CASA, in San Angelo.
“It is CASA’s determination that if (Jeffs’ daughter’s) preferences were followed, it would place her in a dangerous environment and subject her to sexual abuse,” the report stated.
The report contradicts interviews the girl and FLDS members have given denying that she was ever placed in a “spiritual marriage” with an adult member of the church.
The teen, whose name is not being published because she is a suspected victim of sex abuse, was one of more than 400 children taken from the FLDS’ Yearning For Zion Ranch near Eldorado, about 400 miles northwest of Houston, after Texas Child Protective Services determined that all the children were subjected to either physical or sexual abuse.
The CASA report details how Jeffs encouraged what officials deem to be sexual abuse. It cites copies of diary entries written by both the girl and her father, plus pictures that appear to be pulled from the teen’s own photo scrapbook that include a picture of her embracing and kissing her husband, Raymond Jessop.
An FLDS spokesman could not be reached for comment.
Vicki Vines, a clerk with the Tom Green County District Court clerk’s office said she did not know if the CASA report had been filed by midafternoon Friday.
But Natalie Malonis, the girl’s court-appointed attorney, confirmed the report had been filed with the court in San Angelo.
“I hate that it’s come to this but hopefully now my client and I can get our relationship away from public scrutiny and back on track and start going forward.”
CASA is one of the many court-appointed guardians shepherding the best interests of the the girl and some of the more than 400 children taken from the sect’s ranch in April in the San Angelo court.
“Based on the information in the attachments, CASA feels that (the girl) would be at risk for continued sexual abuse,” the CASA report states. “Without protective measures, there is a great risk of further sexual abuse.”
Report: Jeffs married underage daughter to adult
Jeffs’ daughter, now 16 and in her mother’s custody, is involved in a legal fight between the FLDS, the Texas attorney general, who is presenting a criminal case against the sect to grand jurors next week, and her own court-appointed attorneys.
She was one of the children taken from the FLDS’ Yearning For Zion Ranch near Eldorado, about 400 miles northwest of Houston, after Texas Child Protective Services determined that all the children were subjected to either physical or sexual abuse. She has been subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury.
Members of the FLDS, a breakaway sect from the Mormon church, lived for generations along the Arizona-Utah border mostly ignored by law enforcement until recently, when allegations of underage girls forced into marriages surfaced.
Jeffs awaits trial in Arizona on charges of being an accomplice to sexual conduct with a minor for allegedly arranging marriages between underage girls and adult men. He was convicted in Utah last year of two counts of felony rape as an accomplice in the marriage of a girl there.
The Texas raid brought further scrutiny when child protective workers removed more than 400 children from the YFZ Ranch in western Texas and placed them in foster care, alleging they were being abused because of underage marriages in the sect.
No criminal charges have been filed, though a grand jury in Eldorado is hearing testimony. Jurors meet Tuesday for a second time to consider the FLDS case.