Texas: Polygamist sect teen refuses baby's testing

Associated Press/march 2, 2009

Texas child welfare authorities have asked a judge to order a 17-year-old mother from a polygamist sect to submit to a psychological evaluation after she showed up to an appointment for genetic testing with someone else's baby.

She had previously refused to disclose the whereabouts of the infant born in June, when she was 16 and shortly after she and the other 437 children taken from the Yearning For Zion Ranch in Eldorado were returned to their parents from foster care.

The teen produced a baby purported to be her biological child for genetic testing in January, but tests revealed she is not the infant's biological mother, said Child Protective Services attorney John Dolezal in a court filing on Thursday.

State officials believe the girl was married to a man in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints when she was 14. In Texas, someone younger than 17 generally cannot consent to sex with an adult, and The Associated Press is withholding her name because it generally does not name possible victims of sex crimes.

"It appears that (the girl) has been separated from her child," Dolezal said in the filing.

The agency is also concerned the girl is "being improperly influenced, against her best interest, into making choices to not produce her child and to produce another individual's child," he wrote.

CPS officials have said they want to ensure the infant is safe and are not seeking custody.

The girl's attorney, Kelly Ellis, is on maternity leave and couldn't immediately be reached for comment on Monday.

FLDS spokesman Willie Jessop said that while he was unfamiliar with the latest dispute in the case, the girl previously said she feared the agency would try to take the infant if she allowed officials to examine the baby.

"The department has reaffirmed that they're not trustworthy. She was concerned that they would take the baby," Jessop said.

A hearing in the teen's case is scheduled for Friday.

Her case is one of just two remaining cases in what was initially one of the largest custody cases in U.S. history.

In April, the state swept all the children from their West Texas ranch, claiming the children were being abused or were at risk for abuse because of alleged underage marriages within the sect.

The Texas Supreme Court ruled nearly two months later the state had overreached in placing all the children in foster care when it could show that no more than a handful of teenage girls had been abused. The children were returned in early June, and only one, a teenage girl whose mother wouldn't cooperate with authorities, has been returned to foster care.

The teen whose baby the state wants to examine lives with her mother, but her case remains active.

Twelve FLDS men have been indicted on charges related to underage marriages and bigamy; the first trial is scheduled for this fall.

The FLDS is a breakaway sect of the Mormon church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which renounced polygamy more than a century ago.

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