CPS resumes effort for custody of some sect children
SAN ANGELO — Attorneys for the state’s Child Protective Services have resumed efforts to regain custody of the first of several children from a West Texas polygamist ranch, after negotiations to reach an amicable agreement on the case failed this morning.
The state has been seeking to remove eight children from their parents, saying their caregivers have failed to provide them with a safe environment. The parents are all members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a breakaway Mormon sect whose ranch outside Eldorado was raided in early April because authorities said it uncovered evidence of underage marriage.
As hearings were set to get under way this morning, attorneys for the parents of the eight children said they wanted to find an amicable settlement with CPS. Closed-door negotiations continued with attorneys for three sets of parents but broke down in the case of two siblings, a 14-year-old girl who authorities say was spiritually married at age 12 to the sect’s prophet, Warren Jeffs, and her 11-year-old brother.
Jeffs, already convicted as accomplice to rape in Utah and awaiting trial on similar charges in Arizona, was indicted along with four followers in Texas for sexual assault of a child last month. One of the followers was also indicted for bigamy.
The state wants to remove the girl and her brother from the care of her mother, saying the mother has refused to guarantee the girl won’t have contact with men accused of being involved in underage marriages. The girl’s father allegedly blessed her marriage to Jeffs.
Texas seeks custody of teen Jeffs allegedly wed
SAN ANGELO, Texas (AP) — The mother of a girl allegedly given in marriage at age 12 to jailed polygamist leader Warren Jeffs refused to answer questions Monday from attorneys for the state child welfare agency who had begun presenting evidence.
The state wants to remove the girl, now 14, and an 11-year-old brother from the mother’s care, saying she has refused to guarantee the girl won’t have contact with men accused of being involved in underage marriages. The girl’s father allegedly blessed her marriage to Jeffs and the underage marriages of at least two sisters.
The girl’s mother refused to answer roughly 50 questions asked by attorneys for the child welfare agency, including what constituted abuse, the names of her children and her relationship with their father.
“I stand on the Fifth (Amendment),” she said repeatedly in a flat tone.
Her attorney, Gonzalo Rios, said Jessop, 55, was exercising her right against self-incrimination because of the continuing investigation.
In documents submitted with the state’s custody petition, the 14-year-old girl is quoted as telling a caseworker that a young teenage girl marrying an older man “can’t be a crime because Heavenly Father is the one that tells Warren when a girl is ready to get married.”
Carolyn Jessop, now a best-selling author, testified about her relationship with the girl’s father, from whom she ran away. She said the man harshly disciplined her son, who was 1 at the time, by alternately spanking him and putting his face under a running faucet until it turned blue. She said the mother refused to take another son to the hospital when he broke his arm.
Under cross-examination, Rios sought to discredit Carolyn Jessop, saying most incidents she described occurred two decades ago.Carolyn Jessop discusses her book, Escape.
He also criticized her for the amount of money she has earned from her book, “Escape,” about her experience in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints community.
Willie Jessop, an FLDS spokesman, said nothing has happened to justify the children being removed again. None of the children the state wants back in foster care currently live at the ranch.
“They couldn’t find (abuse) the first time it came up. What’s changed?” he said.