Court Guardian: Sect Girl Wed to Man

By Paul A. Anthony
San Angelo Standard-Times
July 18, 2008

It is not in the best interests of Warren Jeffs' 16-year-old daughter to remove the girl's attorney or replace her with one hired by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the girl's court-appointed guardian determined Friday.

In documents filed in state district court in Tom Green County, the guardian presented evidence that the girl was married to a 34-year-old sect official just after her 15th birthday and that the ceremony was officiated by her father, the now-jailed leader of the polygamous sect.

"If (the girl)'s preferences were allowed, it would place her in a dangerous environment and subject her to sexual abuse," according to the report, filed by Court-Appointed Special Advocate Connie Gauwain and obtained by the Standard-Times.

The report, filed in advance of a scheduled hearing next week to determine whether 51st District Judge Barbara Walther should remove Natalie Malonis as the girl's court-appointed attorney at the girl's request, recommends the judge not do so.

It also concludes that Malonis, a Flower Mound family law attorney who has obtained special restrictions on her client and a restraining order against a sect elder, was correct in taking those actions.

"The circumstances of this case certainly necessitate the attorney ad litem's substituted judgment for her child client," Gauwain wrote.

Sect spokesman Rod Parker, heavily critical of Malonis during previous court actions, did not return phone messages left for comment Friday night.

The sect has been the focus of international attention since April 3, when Texas Rangers and the state's Child Protective Services agency began raiding the sect's Schleicher County compound, known as the YFZ Ranch. The sect, which split decades ago from the mainstream Mormon Church, practices a form of polygamy involving spiritual unions that is legal when it involves only consenting adults.

CPS removed roughly 440 children, claiming a "pervasive pattern and practice" of forced "marriages" between teenage girls and much older men; however, a pair of appellate courts ruled weeks later that the agency had failed to justify the removal and ordered all children returned to their parents.

State and federal investigations remain ongoing, including the CPS probe, and the Schleicher County grand jury is scheduled Tuesday to hear more testimony from witnesses called by prosecutors from the state Attorney General's Office.

The 16-year-old girl testified last month at the grand jury's first meeting, and the public conflict between her and Malonis has grown as the attorney won special protections that restricted the girl from talking to her father or visiting the sect's ranch, then obtained a restraining order requiring the girl's mother, Annette Jeffs, to prevent contact between her daughter and sect elder and spokesman Willie Jessop.

Malonis has argued Jessop coerced or threatened the girl into becoming uncooperative with her and with authorities, while the girl in a letter to Walther and e-mails to Malonis said she wanted a new court-appointed attorney.

"The relationship between me and Teresa has never been as bad as the public thinks," Malonis said Friday. "We talk to each other every day."

A hearing on the request - filed by Malonis, who said she wants to get a ruling on the matter - was scheduled for Monday but has since been postponed.

The report's purpose is to give Walther a recommendation ahead of that proceeding, said Debra Brown, director of the Tom Green County Children's Advocacy Center, which runs the district court's CASA program.

"We just feel that she's been represented well by the attorney that's been appointed for her," Brown said. "She's got an attorney that's fighting for her."

The filing came with another round of photographs and documents that give glimpses into life on the ranch - including a picture of the girl kissing new husband Raymond Jessop, a document showing that Jeffs himself officiated the wedding, a journal entry written by the girl detailing how Jeffs informed her of her impending marriage the day of the ceremony, and letters and cards she wrote to Jessop.

The documents show the ceremony took place July 27, 2006, and seem to imply - but do not explicitly state - that sexual activity occurred as part of the relationship.

"CASA feels (the girl) would be at risk for continued sexual abuse by Raymond Jessop if there were no orders in place to prevent it," the report states. "Without protective measures, there is a great risk of further sexual abuse."

The evidence attached to the report paints a picture of a teen whose principal duties were to cook for her family and clean house, but that the afternoon after her 15th birthday, she was told by her father she would be married that night to Jessop.

Jeffs wanted to wait, she wrote in her diary, but, "The Lord wanted Him to do it while He was still able for us to get to Him" - a likely reference to Jeffs' then-impending arrest on charges of arranging marriages between a 14-year-old girl and her adult cousin in Utah, a crime for which he would be subsequently convicted and imprisoned.

Jeffs also told the girl her marriage would "help (her) qualify more quickly to advance further" in the kingdom of God.

The girl gives no indication of being anything but a willing bride, and other documents include letters and a poem sent to her husband proclaiming her love for him.

Numerous posed and unposed pictures show her cuddling against Ray Jessop and smiling widely for the camera - including one of the 15-year-old girl and 34-year-old man in a deep kiss.

"I love you Ray!" one typewritten letter states. "I know that through a perfect obedience I will show that love. I have given myself unto you and seek to continue to do so."

A homemade card reads, "Dear Ray, I love you SweetHeart" on one side and "Have me, Have me ..." on the other. Typed over her picture on that same side is the phrase, "PLEASE Have me!"

The evidence, which the report states was provided by CPS and law enforcement, seems to provide a measure of vindication for that agency, as well as for Malonis - both of whom have been criticized by the sect and its supporters as unfairly persecuting FLDS followers because of their faith.

"I don't look at it as vindication," Malonis said. "I hate that it's come to this. I wish that she had just been left alone, so I could just give her advice and be her attorney. It wasn't supposed to happen like this."

The photos and documents are reminiscent of the shocking release of photos in June showing Jeffs himself deeply kissing a 13-year-old girl. According to the documents, Jeffs married that girl the same day his daughter married Ray Jessop.

"The report is consistent with our investigation," said CPS spokesman Patrick Crimmins, "and with the position we have taken in this case since the very beginning."

Gauwain's report also criticizes the girl's mother, Annette Jeffs, for failing to protect her daughter from being married to Jessop, and allowing their relationship to continue for the nearly two years until the April raid. Annette Jeffs "appears to show no awareness of a need to protect" the girl, the report states.

The woman's attorney, local lawyer Tim Edwards, could not be reached for comment Friday night, but routinely does not discuss cases still active in the court system.

Ray Jessop is a church counselor listed in state documents as a director of YFZ Land Corp., the entity that bought the ranch in late 2003. His father is ranch leader and church Bishop Merril Jessop.

The day Warren Jeffs told her she was to marry Ray Jessop, the girl bustled through her chores, getting ready for the ceremony that evening. Despite the short notice, she told her mother it wasn't a complete surprise.

"I told my mother that a little B4 my birthday, I felt like I was going to be getting married, maybe even on my birthday," she wrote in her diary the next December. "And like Father said to me, 'It gets to be your birthday and then your anniversary the next day.'"

According to a dictation made by Jeffs that night, he married his daughter to Ray Jessop at 8:30 p.m.


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