4 Polygamist Sect Members Post Bond in Texas

By Michelle Roberts
The Associated Press

August 7, 2008

SAN ANTONIO (AP) Four polygamist sect members indicted on charges of sexual assault of a child were released from jail late Wednesday after posting bond.

Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran said the men Raymond Merrill Jessop, 36; Allan Eugene Keate, 56; Michael George Emack, 57; and Merrill Leroy Jessop, 33 posted bonds of $100,000 per charge and were likely headed home to the Yearning For Zion Ranch in Eldorado. They had been jailed since turning themselves in more than a week ago.

Each of the men from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which runs the YFZ Ranch, was indicted last month on one count of sexual assault of a child. Merrill Leroy Jessop faces an additional charge of bigamy.

Under the conditions of their bonds, the men must stay in Schleicher County unless they notify authorities and must stay away from their alleged victims.

They were indicted July 22 along with imprisoned FLDS leader Warren Jeffs, who was also charged with sexual assault of a child, and Lloyd Hammon Barlow, a 38-year-old physician who was charged with three misdemeanor counts of failure to report child abuse. Barlow posted bond last week.

Prosecutors have declined to provide details on what the men are accused of doing, but documents from a separate custody case included a journal entry from Jeffs indicating Raymond Merrill Jessop was married to Jeffs' daughter the day after she turned 15.

The journal entry also indicates Merrill Leroy Jessop married another sect daughter that day, though it's not clear how old she was.

Jeffs is jailed in Arizona awaiting trial on charges related to the marriage of underage girls to older sect members there. He was convicted in Utah last year as an accomplice to rape for marrying a girl to her cousin.

Under Texas law, a girl younger than 17 cannot generally consent to sex with an adult.

The state's bigamy statute applies to legal marriages and to couples who purport to marry, a lower standard adopted in part to target unions like the spiritual marriages practiced by FLDS members.

Prosecutors and law enforcement say their investigation continues.

Child Protective Services, which launched the initial investigation into possible underage marriages, is also still investigating. On Tuesday, CPS asked a judge to place eight children in foster care, saying their mothers refuse to limit their contact with men accused of being involved in underage marriages.

The FLDS, which believes polygamy brings glory in heaven, is a breakaway sect of the mainstream Mormon church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which officially renounced polygamy more than a century ago.


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