5 more sect indictments issued

Go News, San Angelo Texas/September 24, 2008

Eldorado - A grand jury in Schleicher County issued five indictments on Tuesday against three people in criminal cases involving members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

All the charges are felonies, said Schleicher County District Clerk Peggy Williams, but she declined to elaborate further. The suspects' identities were not disclosed.

The indictments came after a quiet day at the courthouse. No sect members were seen in their trademark prairie dresses or long-sleeved button-down shirts walking in or out to testify, as had been the case in previous grand jury hearings.

Williams said she could not comment on whether the indictments involved people who had not previously been charged.

Willie Jessop, a sect elder and spokesman for the FLDS, said the grand jury proceedings were the state's way of justifying the weeklong raid on the sect's YFZ Ranch near Eldorado in April, when more than 400 children were taken into state custody.

"The state has embarked on a vendetta," Jessop said.

He said he didn't know the names of the people listed in Tuesday's indictments but said he was sure any sect members would "face head on" the charges.

The group, he said, still maintains its innocence.

Jessop, who arrived in Schleicher County on Tuesday from Utah, said he and other sect members were disappointed that they were not invited to testify at the grand jury proceedings.

Previous indictments were issued against Raymond Merril Jessop, 36; Allan Eugene Keate, 56; Michael George Emack, 57; and Merril LeRoy Jessop, 33, on charges of sexual abuse of a child. The four men are free on bail of $100,000 each.

Also indicted on the same charge was sect leader Warren Jeffs, who is already serving time on a conviction in Utah of accomplice to rape and awaiting trial in Arizona on a similar charge.

Dr. Lloyd Hammond Barlow, the physician at the YFZ Ranch clinic, was also indicted with the others on July 22 and released on $5,000 bond. Barlow was charged with three counts of failure to report child sex abuse, a misdemeanor.

Three further indictments were issued in late August, although it was not disclosed who was indicted.

The indictments issued Tuesday will remain sealed until the defendants have been served, Williams said.

It is not clear whether the defendants are ranch residents.

On Tuesday, a lone youth in a Jeep could be seen inside the locked and controlled entrance to the YFZ Ranch. The compound has a new gate in place of the simple ranch-style gate from earlier this year. The gate, white with tall metal poles staggered in height, matches the architecture of the massive white temple that dominates the closed 1,700-acre property.

Williams said the Schleicher County Sheriff's Office will serve defendants in the county, but other law enforcement agencies will serve anyone living elsewhere.

Some may come to the county on their own accord, she said.

The grand jury will meet again Nov. 12 and Dec. 16.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.