YFZ Ranch raid & custody case revisited during legislative hearing
State to seek permanent custody of Prophet's child bride
The FLDS Church's year-long public relations campaign ran aground Tuesday as church spokesman Willie Jessop found himself confronted by several members of the Human Services Committee of the Texas House of Representatives.
Jessop, and other FLDS members, were in Austin to testify before the committee as it considered the fallout from last year's raid on the YFZ Ranch near Eldorado. The committee was also meeting to discuss and review House Bill 4255, sponsored by Reps. Harvey Hilderbran, (R-Kerrville), and Drew Darby, (R-San Angelo.)
At one point State Rep. Armando Walle, (D-Houston), produced pictures of FLDS Prophet Warren Jeffs embracing and kissing a 12-year-old girl and read aloud from the Jeffs' dictations in which he stated, "No marriage is underage when God ordains it."
YFZ defendants seek to suppress evidence
Motions filed challenging warrants connected to April 3, 2008 raid
Attorneys representing 10 YFZ Ranch defendants filed motions last week challenging the validity of warrants served during last year's raid on the 1,691 acre property.
Each of the 10 identical motions, consisting of more than 300 pages, including the formal motion and supporting exhibits, also seeks to exclude or suppress evidence seized during the raid and prohibit it from being used during trial.
The motions challenge virtually every aspect of the raid and subsequent search of the ranch, beginning with phone calls to a family shelter from a female caller who identified herself as an underage bride named Sarah Jessop Barlow. Those calls are now widely believed to have been a hoax, perpetrated by a Colorado woman named Rozita Swinton who has a history of making hoax phone calls.
Not only does the motion challenge the legitimacy of the calls, it also asks why Swinton has not been prosecuted.
YFZ Ranch pledged as security against $900K loan
A deed of trust filed Tuesday in the Schleicher County Clerk's office indicates that the 1,691 acre YFZ Ranch was pledged as collateral on November 9, 2008 against a $929,596.66 loan.
The loan was made by John C. Wayman of Las Vegas, Nevada. Wayman is known to be a follower of FLDS prophet Warren Jeffs. He is the owner of Newera Manufacturing, a Las Vegas company once located in Hildale, Utah when it was named Western Precison.
Wayman is also the man who purchased the red 2005 Cadillac Escalade Warren Jeffs was a passenger in at the time of his capture.
The deed of trust was signed by Merril Jessop in his capacity as manager of YFZ Land, LLC. San Angelo attorney Amy Hennington is listed as trustee on the deed of trust. The document indicates the loan is to be repaid in regular periodic payments with the debt to be retired not later than December 31, 2038.
YFZ Ranch sold to Texan Heritage trust
Property tax exemption sought for temple and nearby print shop
The YFZ Ranch officially changed ownership on December 31st of last year, according to documents filed April 23rd in the Schleicher County Clerk's office. The 1,691 acre ranch is now owned by Texan Heritage, a trust established December 31, 2008.
Jim Jessop, listed on the trust documents as James Jerry Jessop, signed as the organization's president. Other officers include Isaac S. Jeffs and Keith W. Dutson, Sr.
The men are all believed to be loyal followers of Warren Jeffs, the jailed prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Trust documents state, "Texas Heritage is to assist the living of the Holy United Order. It exists to preserve and advance the religious doctrines and goals of the United Order of Texas, a common law trust (hereinafter referred to as the "Church"), having its principal office in Eldorado, Texas. The Church hereby ratifies this Declaration of Trust. The doctrines and laws of the Holy United Order are found in the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, and the Holy Bible; and are the guiding tenets by which the Trustees of Texan Heritage shall act."
Court hearing on evidence from YFZ raid slated for Wednesday
District Judge Barbara Walther is scheduled to hear arguments Wednesday as several YFZ Ranch defendants challenge the legality of search warrants served at the ranch last April and the admissibility of evidence seized during the subsequent 6-day-long raid.
The hearing is slated to be held in Schleicher County. If that is the case, it will likely be held in the Memorial Building.
There is some speculation, however, that attorneys for both sides are wanting the hearing moved to San Angelo. If that happens, the hearing will be held in the Tom Green County courthouse.
Lawyers representing 10 YFZ defendants filed identical motions to suppress ahead of an April 15 deadline. Each of the motions consists of more than 300 pages, including the formal motion and supporting exhibits.
Among the exhibits are sworn depositions given by Texas Ranger Brooks Long and Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran. The depositions were originally taken as evidence in an Arizona case, but were offered as supporting evidence in the 10 motions to suppress evidence in the YFZ Ranch cases.
YFZ defendants argue for suppression of evidence
Last YFZ child remaining in state custody released to a distant relative
The last of 439 children removed from the YFZ Ranch last April by child welfare authorities was turned over to a distant relative this week, a move that could effectively end the largest child custody case in U.S. history.
The 14-year-old girl was allegedly married to FLDS Prophet Warren Jeffs when she was only 12. Photos showing him embracing and kissing the girl were made public after they were entered into evidence in civil custody proceedings.
The girl, now 14, was turned over to a woman named Naomi Carlisle. She is a member of Warren Jeffs' FLDS church and is believed to be the second-cousin of the young girl's father, Frederick Merril Jessop.
Documents obtained recently by The Eldorado Success indicate the girl will be living with Ms. Carlisle at her home in the Texas Hill Country.