Documents Could Play Role in Criminal Probe of FLDS Sect

By Terri Langford
Houston Chronicle
July 18, 2008

Warren Jeffs, the jailed leader of the nation's largest polygamist sect under investigation for sex with underage girls, married off his 15-year-old daughter to the 34-year-old son of his chief deputy, according to pictures, diaries and a marriage record obtained Friday by the Houston Chronicle.

In May, a series of similar scrapbook photos of young girls surfaced in court, showing very young girls in romantic kissing embraces with Jeffs, including a girl he married, who documents now indicate was 11 years old at the time.

But the documents involving Jeffs' underage daughter show that marriages of teen girls were not customs practiced only by some, but included the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints' leader, who sect members believe takes his orders directly from God.

Last year, Jeffs was convicted in Utah on two counts of accomplice to rape for his role in forcing a 14-year-old to marry her 19-year-old cousin.

The documents were attached to a report filed Friday by Court-Appointed Special Advocates, also known as CASA, in San Angelo.

"It is CASA's determination that if (Jeffs' daughter's) preferences were followed, it would place her in a dangerous environment and subject her to sexual abuse," the report stated.

The report contradicts interviews the girl and FLDS members have given denying that she was ever placed in a "spiritual marriage" with an adult member of the church.

The teen, whose name is not being published because she is a suspected victim of sex abuse, was one of more than 400 children taken from the FLDS' Yearning For Zion Ranch near Eldorado, about 400 miles northwest of Houston, after Texas Child Protective Services determined that all the children were subjected to either physical or sexual abuse.

The Texas Supreme Court found CPS had not proven the children were in danger and ordered them back to their parents.

Encouraging abuse

The CASA report details how Jeffs encouraged what officials deem to be sexual abuse. It cites copies of diary entries written by both the girl and her father, plus pictures that appear to be pulled from the teen's own photo scrapbook that include a picture of her embracing and kissing her husband, Raymond Jessop.

"I was shown that I should perform three marriage sealings tonight," according to a journal dictated by Warren Jeffs in which he describes marrying his daughter and two others, including the marriage of an 11-year-old girl to himself, on Thursday, July 27, 2006.

His daughter was married to Raymond Jessop, son of FLDS Bishop Merrill Jessop, considered by many to be Jeffs' right-hand man.

"I did gather my daughter ... and her mother Annette in this afternoon and gave her a training on how to be a heavenly wife and to get close to her husband," Jeffs wrote.

The girl's own diary, excerpted and attached in the court filing, confirmed that series of events.

"Father said ... the Lord would like you to get married tonight, now what do you think of that? Are you willing?" the teen recalled in her diary.

An excerpt from the girl's own diary also included a recollection of the marriage to Raymond Jessop in Eldorado at Warren Jeffs' home.

In a Dec. 27, 2006, entry, the girl wrote "The Lord blessed me to go forward in marriage July 27, 2006, the day after I turned 15 years old."

An FLDS spokesman could not be reached for comment.

Vicki Vines, a clerk with the Tom Green County District Court clerk's office said she did not know if the CASA report had been filed by midafternoon Friday.

But Natalie Malonis, the girl's court-appointed attorney, confirmed the report had been filed with the court in San Angelo.

"I hate that it's come to this but hopefully now my client and I can get our relationship away from public scrutiny and back on track and start going forward."

CASA is one of the many court-appointed guardians shepherding the best interests of the the girl and some of the more than 400 children taken from the sect's ranch in April in the San Angelo court.

"Based on the information in the attachments, CASA feels that (the girl) would be at risk for continued sexual abuse," the CASA report states. "Without protective measures, there is a great risk of further sexual abuse."

The children were taken into custody by Texas Child Protective Services in April after finding evidence that teens were being married to adult men. The children were eventually returned to their parents, with some restrictions and their welfare monitored by State District Judge Barbara Walther.

Jeffs' daughter, now 16 and in her mother Annette Jeffs' custody, has found herself in a three-way legal fight between the FLDS, the Texas Attorney General's Office, which is laying out a criminal case against the sect to grand jurors next week, and her own court-appointed attorneys hired to protect her legal and personal interests.

The teen has been subpoenaed by the state to testify before the grand jury, which meets for the second time Tuesday in Eldorado.

Jerry Strickland, a spokesman for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, declined to comment on the records.

Consistent report

Texas CPS spokesman Patrick Crimmins had little comment about the specifics in the guardian's report or whether the agency could now say how many underage girls were married to adult men.

"The report appears to be consistent with the focus of our ongoing Child Protective Services (CPS) investigation, which is to find out if any of these children have been abused or neglected," Crimmins said. "Once we know that, CPS will be able to determine what we believe is necessary to ensure that each of these children is protected."

The child abuse investigation, which has been under way since the sect's children were first taken in early April, is continuing, he said, adding: "We hope to have findings as soon as possible."

Last month, Malonis requested a restraining order to keep the teen from Jeffs' former bodyguard and chief spokesman for the sect, Willie Jessop, contending that he was intimidating her.

Two letters surfaced, allegedly written by the girl, saying she no longer wanted Malonis representing her.



Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.