Polygamist sect: Alleged child bride back in foster care

The Associated Press/August 20, 2008

San Angelo, Texas - A 14-year-old girl allegedly married to jailed polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs with her parents' blessing at age 12 was ordered back into foster care Tuesday by a Texas judge.

District Judge Barbara Walther said there was "uncontroverted evidence of the underage marriage" and that the girl's mother, Barbara Jessop, refused to guarantee her safety. The girl was shown in photographs submitted to the court kissing Mr. Jeffs.

Her 11-year-old brother, whom Texas child welfare authorities also wanted placed in foster care, will be allowed to stay with his mother but will have to undergo psychological evaluation in the next month.

Child Protective Services had taken 440 children into foster care in April after a raid at the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints' ranch in Eldorado, but it was forced by the Texas Supreme Court to return them to their parents. The court ruled that the CPS action was too broad, and since then, the agency has been reviewing each child's case.

The case decided Tuesday was the first in which a sect minor was returned to state custody.

The child welfare agency came to court this week asking that seven children, including the 14-year-old girl and her brother, be returned to foster care. It sought the dismissal of cases involving 76 children, including nine who have turned 18. The rest of the cases remain under investigation.

Lawyers reached settlements before hearings were held Tuesday on the other children CPS had sought to place back in foster care. The five girls in those cases can stay with their mothers, provided the women restrict contact with men accused of being involved in underage marriages and comply with other, more routine custody-related court orders.

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