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Man wins visitation rights to children from estranged plural wife • Thursday June 26, 2003

Associated Press, June 25, 2003

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) – A polygamist father was granted visitation rights to eight of his children Tuesday.

Merril Jessop, of Colorado City, Ariz., will be permitted to see his eight children by estranged plural wife Carolyn Jessop. The couple separated when Carolyn Jessop, 35, left home in April with her children, ages 2 to 15.

A 3rd District Court domestic relations commissioner mediated the agreement, which still must be finalized with a judge’s signature, said Rod Parker, Merril Jessop’s attorney.

Douglas White, Carolyn Jessop’s attorney, did not immediately return several phone calls Wednesday from The Associated Press.

Parker said accusations about child abuse in the home had thwarted his client’s visitation rights. Parker said those accusations were baseless.

”If a mother is claiming that the children are subject to abuse and neglect in the home and so she leaves, and then she – by agreement – sends the children back there without restriction, that just tells you that those accusations weren’t very strong,” Parker said.

Merril Jessop is ”pleased that he’s been given the same visitation rights that any other father would receive in a separation,” Parker said.

Parker did not know how many wives and children Jessop, 67, has in all. Jessop is a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which advocates polygamy as a path to heaven.

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