CPS retains custody of infant from polygamist sect

SAN ANGELO — Child Protective Services can keep in its care an infant born to a polygamist sect member earlier this month, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Under a temporary custody agreement approved in court, the boy born while in foster care on May 12 and his 22-year-old mother are to be reunited — under CPS supervision — with his 3-year-old sister and 1-year-old brother.

The older two children first must clear a medical check to make sure they can’t pass on chicken pox to their baby brother, said the father’s lawyer, Pat Matassarin of Canyon Lake.

Louisa and Dan Jessop decided not to keep fighting for their infant’s release because a Texas Supreme Court decision affecting all 450 or so sect children in CPS care is expected shortly, said Rod Parker, a Salt Lake City lawyer representing the group.

Part of the deal called for CPS to cancel its apparent plan to introduce more graphic evidence of possible child sexual abuse by one or more sect leaders.

On Friday, state lawyers introduced a photograph showing sect leader Warren Jeffs giving a passionate kiss to a 12-year-old girl he purportedly married in July 2006. Mr. Jeffs is jailed in Arizona for allegedly arranging spiritual marriages between underage girls and men — charges similar to ones he was convicted of last year in Utah.

“They were publicity stunts by CPS,” Mr. Parker said.

When shown the photo, Dan Jessop said “there’s everything wrong with that” and “it’s against my religion.” Later, though, when asked if the photo showed sexual abuse, he said, “I do not consider a girl kissing a man sexual abuse.”

The young girl in the photo is Mr. Jessop’s sister. State lawyers say it shows he and his wife lived in a household that condoned underage marriage.

Louisa Jessop gave halting answers Friday to questions about how long she’d been at the Eldorado ranch and who lived in her building there. She often said she didn’t know or couldn’t remember.

Her father-in-law, Merrill Jessop, is a high-ranking figure in the sect — and was in charge at the group’s ranch in Eldorado after Mr. Jeffs’ August 2006 arrest in Nevada. She offered little information about him.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday May 27, 2008.
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