FLDS: Texas judge orders psych exam for polygamous sect teen mom

The San Angelo Standard-Times/March 5, 2009

The teen mother who brought someone else's baby to a meeting with child-welfare investigators must undergo psychiatric evaluation Saturday, a Tom Green County judge has ruled.

The 17-year-old girl is a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints whose 8-month-old baby was born just after the state returned hundreds of children removed from the polygamous sect's compound near Eldorado.

She did not appear in court on Thursday, where 51st District Judge Barbara Walther granted state attorneys' requests for the testing but rejected their efforts to cancel a March 17 custody hearing.

Walther ordered the testing despite appearing skeptical that the state's Child Protective Services agency needed to evaluate the girl - particularly because CPS has said in court filings that it does not plan to seek permanent custody in the case.

"If we're just doing testing without any idea of what you're going to do, what's the point?" she asked CPS lead attorney John Dolezal.

"Testing is needed to decide what we're going to do," he replied.

The rulings extend for two more weeks a drama in which the girl, who turns 18 in August, has defied her mother, her attorneys and the court by refusing to appear for hearings, refusing to answer questions about the whereabouts of her child, and more recently appearing at a prearranged meeting that included CPS caseworkers and attorneys with someone else's baby.

The girl's mother, Sarah Barlow, said through her attorney she would try to ensure the daughter's attendance for the evaluation, to be done in San Angelo.

"My client would very much like her daughter to go along with the psychological evaluation," said Dallas attorney Cornelia Boyea. "But she's 17-and-a-half years old and has a mind of her own."

Walther also dismissed the case of Joseph Jeffs, a son of sect leader Warren Jeffs who has been raised by his aunt, Annette Jeffs.

The boy's attorney, Jonathan Davis, had sought a court order granting custody formally to Annette Jeffs because his father is imprisoned in Arizona, and his mother died several years ago.

"Although I'm very sympathetic to your position," Walther told Davis, "I really can't see any law that supports your case."

The dismissal officially brings to 437 the number of children removed from the ranch in April who have since been dismissed from the largest child-custody case in American history.

Two children remain: The 17-year-old girl for whom testing was ordered today, and a 14-year-old girl who sect photos and documents say was married at age 12 by her father to Warren Jeffs.

CPS says it found evidence showing that 12 girls at the ranch were married to adult men before age 16. In a separate criminal case, 12 FLDS members, including Jeffs, have been indicted on charges relating to alleged marriages between underage girls and adult men.

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