Records show more Texas sect members wed minors
Church documents disclosed as part of a separate child custody case over the last several months identify at least 10 other men as allegedly having married girls who were 16 or younger. The girls’ fathers and stepfathers blessed the unions and sometimes even presided over ceremonies between other young girls and adult men, the documents show.
In all, about 20 underage girls, a few as young as 12, are identified in the documents as having married jailed sect leader Warren Jeffs or one of his followers.
Under Texas law, girls younger than 17 generally cannot consent to sex with an adult.
The Schleicher County grand jury that indicted five men from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on sexual assault charges is scheduled to meet again Thursday. A sixth man was indicted on a charge of failure to report abuse.
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It was unclear if charges would be brought against other FLDS members. Officials with the Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Public Safety declined to comment on the criminal case other than to say that the investigation continues.
Underage marriages were not universal within the FLDS, but the marriage certificates, Jeffs’ journal entries, photos and family listings show they were not isolated events, as the church had suggested.
“We didn’t really have a sense of what was going on out there. We knew there was a potential for a problem,” said Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran, who had visited the sect’s Yearning For Zion Ranch during the years before the April raid. “The state has that evidence now, or I believe they do.”
No FLDS insiders expected by grand jury
SAN ANGELO — When a West Texas grand jury reconvenes today to consider evidence against members of a polygamist sect, it’s not likely to hear from any insiders.
Not a single follower of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints appears to have stepped forward to cooperate with authorities pursuing criminal charges against their peers, law enforcement authorities concede.
“No one is talking to me,” Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran said Wednesday. “They do not open up to law enforcement.”
Prosecutors may turn to the group’s documentation. They were meticulous about preserving marriage and birth records, complicated family trees and photos of milestones, such as marriages and anniversaries. Warren Jeffs, the group’s prophet, kept a detailed diary of such occasions.
“Then at 9 p.m. … (the girl) was sealed for time and all eternity to Warren Steed Jeffs,” one entry, dated Saturday, April 16, 2005, read.
Rod Parker, an attorney for the FLDS, said Wednesday that his side has two fronts to fight: suppress the evidence by proving the search was illegal; and raise jurisdictional questions that would make prosecutors prove that if there was illegal activity, it took place in Texas.