Data bolstering case against Jeffs

Deseret News/August 6, 2008

Marriage records, dictations and even love letters to Fundamentalist LDS Church leader Warren Jeffs are being used to bolster Texas child welfare authorities' claims of underage marriages within the Utah-based polygamous sect.

Documents filed in a San Angelo court on Tuesday allege more marriages - including a pair of 12-year-old girls married to Jeffs.

"I am praying to become a Heavenly comfort Wife for you. I love you so much I pray I may be worthy to advance. I fill (sic) you so close. Love always," one of the girls wrote in a 2005 letter included in the court filings.

In dictations made by Jeffs, other FLDS leaders are implicated in the marriage ceremonies - including YFZ Ranch leader Merril Jessop.

"Then I looked at Merril Jessop and he looked at me and he said, 'I am willing,' and smiled. I said, 'I am willing.' I explained that the Lord wanted this young lady to be sealed to me to carry on in her training, even to witness great things in the Lord," Jeffs said in a July 27, 2006, dictation in which he said Jessop married a 12-year-old daughter to Jeffs.

Affidavits filed by child welfare workers claim evidence of at least 10 underage marriages. The girls range in age from 12 to 16, CPS said. In the July 2006 dictation, Jeffs also sealed a 15-year-old girl to Merril Leroy Jessop, 33, who was indicted last month by a Schleicher County grand jury on a sexual assault charge, as well as bigamy. Another indicted man, Raymond Merril Jessop, 36, is also alleged to have married a 15-year-old girl.

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