Warren Jeffs trial witness getting help in custody case

An organization that helps people leaving polygamy is raising money to help pay the legal bills of a witness in the trial of Fundamentalist LDS Church leader Warren Jeffs.

The southern Utah-based HOPE Organization is soliciting funds to pay for attorneys in Teressa Wall’s child custody case in Canada.

“Because Teressa’s ex-husband is still a member of the FLDS, she is now facing a legal battle for custody of her children in retaliation for her testimony against Warren Jeffs,” HOPE director Elaine Tyler wrote in a plea posted on the Web site, thehopeorg.org.

Teressa Wall is the sister of Elissa Wall, who was the Washington County attorney’s star witness in the case against Jeffs. She bolstered her sister’s claims that Jeffs performed a child-bride marriage between then-14-year-old Elissa and her 19-year-old cousin.

“Two weeks after I got back from testifying, I got the papers,” Teressa Wall said in an interview Friday night with the Deseret Morning News. “I’m positive that’s what it’s all about.”

Jeffs, 52, is now serving two five-to-life sentences in the Utah State Prison after being convicted of rape as an accomplice, a first-degree felony. He recently resigned as president of the FLDS Church, but it is unclear if he is still prophet of the polygamous sect.

Wall left the FLDS community of Bountiful, in British Columbia, and separated from her husband in June. She now lives in Idaho with her three children, ages 8, 7 and 5. Shortly after Jeffs’ trial, advocates claim, Wall’s ex-husband sought full custody of her children.

In a ruling issued earlier this month, the Supreme Court in British Columbia granted Teressa (Wall) Blackmore temporary custody, noting Joseph Blackmore’s membership in the FLDS Church.

“Suffice it to say that, whatever Mr. Blackmore may argue about the FLDS Church being irrelevant to this application, it is an elephant in the corner of the room of this proceeding that inevitably casts a shadow over it,” Justice Thomas Melnick wrote.

Blackmore said in court papers his ex-wife’s concerns about the FLDS faith was a “convenient red herring” to justify what would otherwise be considered wrongful conduct by a parent denying custody and access to the children. He has not said if he will appeal. Wall said her custody dispute is not over and it’s not cheap.

“I’m looking at a $10,000 bill,” she said. “Right now I am struggling to keep a roof over my kids’ heads. I’m kind of at a point right now where I have no pride left. I really need some help.”

The Diversity Foundation, another group that helps those ousted from the FLDS communities, has been “a great help,” she said. The Vancouver Sun newspaper reports a defense fund has also been launched at a credit union in Canada.


(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Ben Winslow, Deseret Morning News, Dec. 30, 2007, http://deseretnews.com

Religion News Blog posted this on Monday December 31, 2007.
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