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May 21st, 2008
03:55 PM ET

Dispatch from FLDS hearing: ”The children are all fine, medically...”

Editor's Note: The following is a dispatch from CNN's Senior producer Tracy Sabo inside the FLDS courtroom hearings

Courtroom B, Case #1
Mother: Louanna Jessop
Father: Leroy J. Jessop (not present)

Note: This mother/father have 7 children.

  1. Angela, age 2
  2. Virginia, age 4
  3. Harmony, age 10
  4. Zane, age 5
  5. Shem, age 1
  6. Leanna, age 7
  7. Miranda, age 8

Highlights

  • Caseworker has not had any contact with father, Leroy J. Steed, and has not been able to locate him thru calling the ranch, etc. Will continue trying to reach him thru the attorney name/number (court-appointed?) provided today by the mother (she does not know where he is, per her atty).
  • Louanna has done DNA testing. None done on the father, as far as anyone in court is aware.
  • Mother has signed the plan and added some comments and a home schooling curriculum as well as a complaint that it lacked specificity.
  • When the caseworker was asked by the mother’s attorney, Charles Grimm, “Did you have anything to do with creating this plan?” Martinez answered, “I did not have anything to do with this plan. It was already created.” Martinez went on to say, “It was tailor-made for the FLDS parents.” He clarified by saying it was a fairly standard CPS plan “is very close to what we use all the time… This is a starting point… We will individualize it.”
  • There was talk of consolidating the children. Angela and Shem are in Corpus and there is a request to move them move to San Antonio where Virginia is located. 4 of the other children are in Waco. The caseworker said there had been no effort to consolidate them all together before requests were made today.
  • ”The children are all fine, medically,” Martinez testified.
  • Asked by the mother’s attorney if he had found any evidence of abuse or neglect of the 7 children, he responded, “During visitation, there has been no evidence of that.” Pressed further whether he has seen any medical records indicating abuse or neglect, Martinez responded, “not that I am aware of.” The attorney asked the caseworker, “Does CPS normally take children from families where there is no evidence of abuse or neglect?” Before Martinez could answer, Judge Gossett tersely asking the atty, “Were you at the 14-day hearing?” And then followed up by asking “Are you confused about the findings in the 14-day hearing?” That line of questioning ended there.
  • Cross-examination from the adlitem for Angela focused on a referral she asked for that would move Angela to San Antonio.
  • Cross-examination from the adlitem for Shem was similar asking the Case Worker to consider his referral to move Shem to be with his older sister Angela.
  • Cross-examination from the adlitem for Harmony (via phone) focused on the service plan and how it was drafted. The caseworker told Menduni that the service plan “Was formulated by Supervisors and staff with prior knowledge or information from people all over the country with information about the FLDS population.” He reminded the attorney that it was a starting point. The adlitem asked, “Is it possible that none of this plan may be applicable to this family?” Martinez answered, “Yes, that is a possibility.”
  • Adlitem Medici also asked the case worker if he was aware that the mother of alleged father, Leroy Steed, was at Methodist in Waco last week and he could have asked her about her son’s whereabouts then. He said he was not aware of that.
  • Court Conference off-the-record took place about the fact that the mother now wants the two kids in Corpus moved to San Antonio.
  • Judge’s Comments/Decision: Judge Gossett addressed mother Louanna Jessop, commenting on the fact all the children are currently separated by the State, saying, “It is my strong, strong desire that these children get together and the only reason I have not ordered that is because we’d have chaos more than what we have now.”
  • The Judge also said “The Court has no problem with the home schooling that is being suggested.”
  • Judge Gossett signed the plan when he asked the mother if she read it, she responded, “I have read through it.” Asked if she understood the plan, she said, “I understand the basics, but I don’t understand how it applied to my kids.”

NOTE: THE JUDGE MENTIONED TO THE COURT THAT THE COURT STAFF HAS “BLOCKED OFF 5 WEEKS IN SEPTEMBER FOR PERMANANCY HEARINGS,” but gave no further details.


Filed under: FLDS court hearing • FLDS update • Polygamy
soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Adrian Archer

    Is the fathers name Leroy J. Jessop or Leroy J. Steed? The article refers to him by the first name in the header, and by the second in the first sentence of "Highlights"

    May 22, 2008 at 12:46 am |
  2. Annie Kate

    I wonder how many of the mothers don't feel that the CPS plan doesn't specifically apply to their family? They have lived in the FLDS so long and know no other way of life and probably see nothing wrong with the lifestyle that resulted in their children being taken from them. I hope the CPS plan includes educating the mothers as to why their lifestyle in the FLDS makes the plan, even though generic, applicable to them. If they just go through the motions on the plan to get their children back but don't really change their behavior then nothing will have been accomplished.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    May 21, 2008 at 9:47 pm |
  3. Lisa

    I am concerned that CPS did not do a better job of keeping siblings together, or at the very least, very close by each other (as opposed to spread across the state).

    I am also concerned that these mothers – who so value the family unit (or maybe just the kids?) – appear to be not concerned with where their husband/men/fathers are. Regardless of the type of environment one is living in or raised in, why aren't these women asking that question? And I'd be curious to know if the kids are.

    May 21, 2008 at 4:08 pm |