After raid on Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Texas ranch
ELDORADO, Texas — The first of a dozen polygamist sect members charged with abuse of women stands trial Monday, 18 months after agents raided the group’s remote ranch and carted off more than 400 children in the largest child-custody case in American history.
Raymond Jessop, 38, faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of sexual assault of a child, a charge stemming from his alleged marriage to an underage girl in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He will be tried later on a separate count of bigamy related to a second alleged underage bride.
In all, 12 sect members have been charged with crimes ranging from failure to report child abuse to sexual assault and bigamy.
Authorities have said little about the allegations against Jessop, but documents seized from the ranch indicate the assault charge stems from his alleged marriage to an underage girl. The girl later became pregnant and was in labor for several days in August 2005. But after Jessop consulted with sect leader Warren Jeffs, the girl wasn’t taken to the hospital, allegedly out of fear that hospital authorities would discover her age and turn in Jessop.
Jeffs was arrested in 2006 and later convicted as an accomplice to rape in Utah for arranging an underage marriage there. He faces similar charges in Arizona and is charged with bigamy and sexual assault of a child in Texas.
Cult leader Warren Jeffs indicted
Five members of a West Texas polygamist sect, indicted last week on charges that included sexually assaulting teenage church members, turned themselves in to Schleicher County authorities Monday.Inside the FLDS – 1/2 (View part 2 below)
The arrests, which were negotiated during the past several days with a lawyer representing the sect, included members of the Jessop and Barlow families, who are prominent within the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a Mormon splinter group.
Four men from the sect’s Yearning for Zion Ranch near Eldorado were charged with sexually assaulting girls younger than 17, a felony carrying a maximum penalty of life in prison. Raymond Merrill Jessop , 36, Merrill Leroy Jessop , 33, Allan Keate , 56, and Michael Emack , 57, were being held in the Schleicher County Jail on $100,000 bail. Merrill Leroy Jessop also was charged with bigamy, a felony.
The fifth sect member, Lloyd Hammon Barlow , 38, was charged with three counts of failing to report child abuse, a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in prison. Barlow, the sect’s doctor at the Yearning for Zion Ranch, was being held on $5,000 bail.
Last week, the Schleicher County grand jury also indicted sect leader Warren Jeffs with felony sexual assault of a teenage girl.
The sect practices polygamy, with male church members allowed to take multiple brides in church-sanctioned “celestial” marriages.
Allegations that some men had married underage girls prompted Child Protective Services to seize more than 400 of the sect’s children from the West Texas ranch in April. The children were returned to their parents two months later after the Texas Supreme Court ruled that most of the seized children were not in imminent danger of abuse.
Texas Polygamist Women Called “Pimps”
Former polygamist Flora Jessop, who escaped the compound 15 years ago, worked with some of the children after they were taken from the ranch. She now lives in Phoenix with her husband and two kids. Raymond Jessop’s father is her cousin, so Raymond is her second cousin.Inside the FLDS – 2/2
Flora works to get other girls out, including her sister. She’s also writing a book about the sect.
“Everyone (in the sect) views (Raymond) as a hero and martyr,” she tells CBS News. “Being on trial has not and will not hurt his image at all. All 12 of these guys are viewed that way.”
She told “The Early Show Saturday Edition” co-anchor Chris Wragge “it really doesn’t” surprise her that the men are being put on trial, “because of the nature of the abuses that we’ve been talking about for years. And I’m just happy to see that they are going to trial. What I’m upset the most about, I think, is the fact that none of the women have been indicted, as well.
” … I think that the women were nothing but pimps on that compound and giving their daughters over to these perverts knowing what was going to happen to them.”
Flora added, “I think the nature of the abuse and the severity of the abuse is going to shock people. I spent a month in Texas in June, when I just traveled through the state, and I wanted to know firsthand what was discovered, and spoke with hundreds of CPS (Child Protective Service) caseworkers, and the sense I got was that the local CPS workers felt just as betrayed as the children, and (I) felt they just quit believing in the system, because they were told they couldn’t protect these kids.”
Flora predicted some of the allegations that will be made in the courtroom will be worse than what’s come to light already “because of what I discovered in Texas.”
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