Eevidence shows her father encouraged her marriage to a 34-year-old sect member
Texas Child Protective Services notified a judge Monday that it is removing the 17-year-old daughter of jailed polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs from court supervision even though evidence shows her father encouraged her marriage to a 34-year-old sect member.
The teen’s removal leaves under court supervision only three of 439 children CPS removed last April from the sect’s ranch in Eldorado.
“We have nonsuited (dismissed) cases when we believe that parents or family members have taken steps to protect the children from future abuse or neglect,” said Patrick Crimmins, CPS spokesman. “A nonsuit means that in our estimation court oversight is no longer needed to ensure a child’s safety.”
State District Judge Barbara Walther of San Angelo acknowledged CPS’ notice to drop the case from her court with her signature by late afternoon.
“It was the right thing to do,” said Mindy Montford, attorney for the teen’s mother, Annette Jeffs. “I hope CPS continues on this same course of action.”
One of the teen’s siblings is among the three children still under court supervision.
Last December, CPS found that there was a “reason to believe” the teen had been abused.
That finding and the agency’s decision to have the case dropped seem contradictory to the girl’s attorney, Natalie Malonis.
“I don’t think it’s intellectually honest,” said Malonis.
Jeffs’ daughter noted in her own diary that she married Raymond Jessop, son of Jeffs’ chief deputy, Merril Jessop, at 15.
“The Lord blessed me to go forward in marriage July 27, 2006, the day after I turned 15 years old,” the girl wrote in a journal recovered by law enforcement after the April raid. Jeffs’ own records showed he officiated at his teenage daughter’s wedding to Jessop.
Jeffs is the leader of the nation’s largest polygamist sect, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
FLDS leader’s daughter among 5 dropped in Texas case
A CPS spokesman declined to speak about the dismissal, saying the agency does not talk about specific cases. Jeffs’ court-appointed attorney, Natalie Malonis, said the case was not over, however.
Malonis filed a counter-petition in January, seeking to place restrictions upon Jeffs — including appointing her mother and CPS as joint-managing conservators of the child, restricting her to live in Texas, and seeking financial support from the United Effort Plan Trust, the real-estate arm of the FLDS Church.
She is in the midst of a courtroom spat with FLDS members and their lawyers after deposing YFZ Ranch leader Frederick Merril Jessop and FLDS spokesman Willie Jessop, who both invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in depositions involving her child client. A judge has yet to rule on whether they can be compelled to answer her questions. A hearing is scheduled Friday to deal with their request to seal the depositions.
“It’s difficult to even evaluate the risk to my client because there’s so little information about how the group works and who controls what,” she said. “Maybe if I had that information it might be clear to me that she’s fine in the situation she’s in. I’m not asking for anything real drastic. I’m not.”
Teresa Jeffs was allegedly married to Raymond Merril Jessop when she was 15 and he was 34. Teresa Jeffs sought to have Malonis replaced, saying her attorney was not acting in her best interests. Malonis sought a restraining order against Willie Jessop, accusing him of intimidating her and pressuring the girl to be uncooperative. The judge refused to remove Malonis and signed a restraining order telling Jeffs’ mother, Annette, to keep her daughter away from Jessop.
Malonis said she was served Monday with a new filing by Jeffs’ mother, Annette, seeking to replace Malonis and accusing her of not doing what is in Teresa Jeffs’ best interest.
Meanwhile, CPS confirmed to the Deseret News that it nonsuited four children on Friday, in addition to Jeffs.