Court moves up hearing date on 8 FLDS children
District Judge Barbara Walther last week rescheduled custody hearings for eight FLDS children from the YFZ Ranch near Eldorado. The court originally scheduled the hearings for September 25th of this year at which time Texas Child Protective Services would advance the argument that the eight children should be removed to foster care. However, just last week the hearings were rescheduled for next week. The first of four hearings is set to start on Monday, August 18, 2008 in Walther’s San Angelo courtroom.
Included in the hearings are children belonging to YFZ Ranch overseer Frederick Merril Jessop and his wife Barbara Steed Jessop.
Judge finds “incontrovertible evidence” of underage marriage
14-year-old child bride ordered into foster care — 7 others allowed to remain with their mothers
SAN ANGELO – Barbara Steed Jessop on Monday declined more than fifty times to answer questions in a child custody hearing before 51st District Judge Barbara Walther. Her lawyer, Gonzalo Rios of San Angelo, said her decision to exercise her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination was made due to an ongoing criminal investigation. The tactic did not, however, help her keep custody of her 14-year-old daughter.
The girl, who was allegedly married to FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs when she was 12 was ordered into state-supervised foster care after Judge Walther ruled that there was “incontrovertible evidence” of an underage marriage involving the girl.
The girl is also the daughter of Merril Jessop, the man who oversaw day-to-day operations of the YFZ Ranch prior to the April 3rd raid. Two of his sons, Raymond Merril Jessop, Merril Leroy Jessop, were among five men indicted by Schleicher County grand jurors for sexual assault of a child. Another of the men, Warren Jeffs, is accused of marrying Merril and Barbara Jessop’s daughter in 2006, when she was only 12.
Grand Jury meets again on Thursday
Schleicher County grand jurors are slated to meet again on Thursday, August 21, 2008 in the Schleicher County Memorial Building. As for past meetings, security officers will restrict access to the building.
It is believed that the grand jury will continue to weigh evidence in the ongoing criminal inquiry that stemmed from the YFZ raid on April 3rd.
Just last month, grand jurors handed down six felony indictments for Sexual Assault of a Child and Bigamy. One of those charges was against FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs. Four others were filed against men from the YFZ Ranch including two of Merril Jessop’s sons. (See story above.)
The grand jury also issued three misdemeanor charges against Dr. Lloyd Barlow for failure to report abuse.
Unlike during the two most recent grand jury meetings, the Schleicher County Courthouse will remain open this time. That is primarily due to other court proceedings on the docket in the second-floor court room. None of those proceedings are believed to involve members of the FLDS church or with the ongoing criminal investigation resulting from the raid at the YFZ Ranch. Other county offices will be closed.
FLDS men surrender on bigamy charges
ELDORADO — Michael George Emack, 57, and Raymond Merril Jessop, 36, both residents of the YFZ Ranch, surrendered to Schleicher County authorities on Friday, August 22, 2008 following their indictments a day earlier on Bigamy charges. Warren Steed Jeffs, 52, was also indicted on a Bigamy charge, but he is in jail in Kingman, AZ where he awaits trial on charges that he arranged and performed underage marriages. Jeffs is being held on a writ of detainer for the State of Texas.
Both Emack and Jessop quickly bonded out of jail on a $10,000.00 surety bond.
The two men, along with Warren Jeffs, were previously indicted on charges of Sexual Assault of a Child. And, each had already posted a $100,000.00 surety bond prior to their indictments last week.
Arizona judge nixes Jeffs bid for remand to grand jury
KINGMAN, AZ — Mohave County Arizona judge Steven Conn denied a request by Warren Jeffs attorney Michael Piccaretta that the charges pending against Jeffs in Arizona be remanded by to the grand jury for more consideration.
Piccaretta argued that the jury was not fair and unbiased. He further noted that he intends to oppose the introduction of any evidence seized during the April raid at the YFZ Ranch in Texas. The lawyer says the evidence was obtained without a valid search warrant.
For his part, Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith says he believes Texas authorities acted appropriately and will actively defend the use of Texas evidence in Jeffs’ upcoming trial.
State custody case ends for 253 YFZ children
Lawyers representing Texas Child Protective Services filed documents Friday in San Angelo district court effectively ending the state’s interest in custody of 56 children from the YFZ Ranch. That brings to 253 the number of children who have been “non-suited” by CPS.
The state’s decision to nonsuit ends the court’s jurisdiction over the children. It does not, however, end CPS supervision of the children.
A CPS spokesperson noted that reasons to “non-suit” vary from lack of evidence of abuse to parents who have taken additional steps to protect their children. Some of the 253 children have also reached the age of 18 and are no longer subject to state supervision.
That leaves approximately 200 children under the court’s jurisdiction at this time.