April 18th, 2008
07:58 PM ET

Dispatch from the FLDS hearing: A mother's story

FLDS member Merilyn Jeffs takes the stand and testifies:

-She is capable of supporting herself independently. 

-She has one daughter, Marla Neilson, has a birth certificate and Social Security card. 

-Was 21 when her daughter was born

-The father of her daughter is Wendall Neilson.

-She was not forced into marriage before age 18. 

-She is not able to be with her daughter at this time.  

-Her daughter was in the 1st group removed from the compound, and she was not allowed to accompany her daughter.  

-She was allowed to reunite at Fort Concho. 

-This has not been a good experience for her daughter.

-It’s in her best interest to have have Marla with her. 

-She is willing to do whatever is required to stay with her daughter.

-She would not allow her daughter to marry before she was 18… 

-Her daughter has a say  in who she marries and when. 

-She’s responisible for what happens to Marla. 

Cross examination. Merlyn Jeffs testifies:

-She has never insturucted her daughter to give a false name.  They have conversations. 

-She has not witnessed any marriages at YFZ ranch since she has been there in 2004. 

-Her mother lives in the same house, along with many other family.

-She has a sister who’s been married since 2004, she’s 19 now.

-Can’t be exact on how old her sister's baby is... estimates 2 years old. 

-Has another sister who she believes is 18, remembers congratulating her when she got married.

-Sister was married more than 1 year ago, her daughter is walking.  

-Says she will have her child wait to be married, if the prophet says her daughter was able to marry, at 15. 

-Is not familiar with any of the marriages of any other women on the ranch. 

Questioned by her daughter's attorney, Jeffs testifies:

-CPS took her daughter from her

-She went to the shelter to be with her. 

-Does not want to have her daughter before marry before 18, because she wants to protect her.

-Was unaware of the legal age to marry

Filed under: FLDS court hearing • Polygamy
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Brandi down the bayou.

    'unaware of the legal age for marriage'????

    Please! I'm sorry, that hit me the wrong way, I think she is saying whatever she has to in order to retrieve custody of her child. As others have done in the past, I have no doubt if that were to happen this child would still be exposed to the lifestyle and teachings as well as the men who do not go to jail. The others did it in secrecy and so will these mothers.

    Any halfway decent mother knows that just because her child hits puberty does not mean she is ready to be a wife or mother.

    Im sorry, this is a terrible tragedy for these children, there is no answer that will resolve this situation and leave them unscathed, but hopefully the best solution will be found allowing them to heal and build their own lives.

    April 20, 2008 at 11:06 pm |
  2. sally

    i really like to help her out she looks like she can use it maybe she will leave the ranch and get a placce for her and her daughter she can do it just need to know what to do and how to do like i think these woamn are under the wrong men ,

    April 20, 2008 at 2:53 am |
  3. Lynda Biaou

    After reading all of this and watching some of the segments on TV, I think they should take each woman separatly and ask them questions. Because they seem to be influenced by the bunch when they are asked to give out information.
    One thing is for sure they want their kids back and I bet most of them are gonna be willing to give out info if they are told that "the prophet" or husbands won't be able to track them down.
    The thing is they have been brain washed, in order to keep them there for years. They really need some therapy, big time!!!

    April 20, 2008 at 12:12 am |
  4. Tina

    These women are brainwashed severely, to think this behavior is okay. If not brainwashed, then maybe somekind of mental illness that needs to be further evaluated, hopefully the Justice System will order this. They sound as if they are programmed. If they cared so much for their children, there no way any mother could stand by and accept this. They should not return to thier mothers because they failed to protect them from horrible abuses. If you take the mother and children and relocated them together..these women are more loyal to thier "husband" than they are to thier own children, let alone themselves. Sad but True! I think the State of Texas did a great job in removing these children immediately. I just hope that the children are well cared for wherever they are place because much support, love is needed for them. God Bless The Children!


    April 19, 2008 at 11:13 pm |
  5. Pam

    For people who are supposed to be so religious they sure lie a lot. I am a mother and I am accountable for what happens to my children – why aren't these women held accountable? I understand that many of them were born into this way of life and they really believe what this pervert claiming to be a "prophet" tells them but I can't believe that they don't know the difference between abuse and kindness or the difference between a lie and the truth. Their children have been taken from them because there is no one on the compound who will protect them. Why don't they leave the compound and show a sincere love for their children if they really want their children back?
    I am so thankful that someone is finally doing something to stop the physical and mental abuse and most of all, the child rape and forced marriages.
    I hope the state of Texas takes this further and starts making arrests. These people need to pay for what they have done to these kids. It is unacceptable and completely unbelievable that they can excuse rape as a religious belief.

    April 19, 2008 at 7:13 pm |
  6. Agatha

    Where are the men – the fathers of the children? It seems they are hiding behind the women and letting them take all the stress. It's the men, particularly the leaders, who should be punished. I have a suggestion, but it wouldn't be appropriate to say what it is.

    April 19, 2008 at 4:33 pm |
  7. Diane

    It is fine to let the women and children go free and live in America, but who will support these women, where will they live? I for one am very tired of supporting women and their children who live all their lives on the government welfare system due to the poor choices they have made. I am aware in this situation, they have been brainwashed and this is no fault of their own, but in reality someone has to pay for this.

    April 19, 2008 at 1:54 am |
  8. Jenny

    The state should provide de-programmers for the women,and help them start over. Its ridiculious that women in the 21st century are having to live as robots and controlled like in the Taliban. What about the men? They need to be held accountable for the incest, and other abuse that goes just like Warren Jeff's.

    April 18, 2008 at 11:49 pm |
  9. Annie Kate

    This woman has 2 sisters according to her testimony that were underage or still are who are married and have children. That's a little close for comfort. If this woman was unaware of the legal age for marriage is she also aware of abuse laws for not only her child but herself as well. Carolyn Jessup said on the show that domestic violence was common against the children and the women especially in her former husbands family and was considered discipline – sounds like these women need to be taught parenting and what their rights are in this country.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    April 18, 2008 at 9:49 pm |
  10. Alice Soulopulos

    It would have been more prudent to remove the men from the compound and let the women & children remain.. They could be questioned in their own surroundings without having to go through such a taumatic experience. After all it's the men that have done the damage.

    April 18, 2008 at 9:48 pm |
  11. None

    "was unaware of the legal age to marry..."

    The women there are "unaware" of a LOT of things that that go on in the real world, including freedom and the right to ask questions when something doesn't seem right.

    They take away the right to ask "why" as soon as children are able to say the word by telling them "because I said so" and "never question the decisions of your elders".

    We're born with the right to ask why, it's in our nature, it's how we move forward. It developes the machanical part of our brains.

    They replace their children's natural curiosity with fear tactics to keep them under control wich sets up walls and barriors to prevent unwanted future questioning.

    "Why" is the one little word that's capable of breaking the mind control.

    April 18, 2008 at 8:40 pm |
  12. Shelia Pfeifer

    Why can't they just give the mother's and their children apartments/homes so they can remain together? This is all the children know.

    I say LOCK all the men up for the way that they treated these women and children.

    Give the women and children counseling and let them live free. This is AMERICA

    April 18, 2008 at 8:20 pm |