May 20th, 2008
05:37 PM ET

Dispatch from FLDS hearing: Underage mothers and Warren Jeffs’ children

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From a pool reporter inside the courtroom
Update from Courtroom A

Case #1
1 year old boy
Mother: 17 ½ years old

Attorneys asked for a continuance because the mother, who is a minor, has not been able to meet with her attorneys because she is 8 months pregnant and located in a shelter in San Antonio. The judge granted the continuance and the hearing will now be held 6/3. Attorneys expressed concern that they are not able to have private conversations, that social workers are taking notes on phone conversations.


Case #2
9 ½ year old child

Father: Warren Steed Jeffs (incarcerated)

Highlights: The attorney asked which version of the Book of Mormon the children were given (new version of Book of Mormon condems polygamy). CPS worker Irene Schwaninger "Polygamy is not the issue, underage marriage is the issue here." Mother has signed CPS plan.

Filed under: Barclay Palmer • FLDS court hearing • FLDS update • Polygamy
May 20th, 2008
02:18 PM ET

Dispatch from FLDS hearing: Update from courtroom E

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From a pool reporter inside the courtroom

2 cases so far:

Case #1
2 ½ year old girl

Janet Jeffs, the mother, was not in the courtroom, but she and her attorney spoke via speakerphone from Austin, TX. Janet and her child are living together at a shelter in Austin. There were questions about whether Janet was a minor, but at this morning's hearing the state agreed to accept the fact the she was over 18. The mother's court-appointed attorney had to withdraw from the case because she was assigned to represent Janet as a minor. The judge has given Janet a week to find an attorney who will represent her as an adult. Janet says she last saw the father, Raymond Jessop, about a year ago at the ranch. No one knows where he is now.

Filed under: Barclay Palmer • FLDS court hearing • FLDS update • Polygamy
May 19th, 2008
06:12 PM ET

Dispatch from FLDS hearing: Where are the fathers?

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Ismael Estrada
360° Producer

Afternoon session in San Angelo, Texas. Judge Thomas Gossett presiding.

Kathleen Steed, mother of 12, possibly 13 (one child is being disputed): Father, LeRoy Steed, is not present, state has not been able to locate him. Hearing focused on only one of their children, an 8-year-old girl.

Paige Hawkins, Texas Dept. of Family and Protective Services, on the stand... She says the state formulated a "family service plan" for the family based on risks that officials felt the child faced when they removed her from the FLDS ranch.

They haven't had any contact with the father, nor was he included in forming the plan.

Filed under: FLDS court hearing • FLDS update • Polygamy
May 19th, 2008
04:18 PM ET

Dispatch from FLDS hearing: 5 children, 1,800 miles

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David Mattingly
360° Correspondent

Conversation with adults from the FLDS sect in west Texas are usually very polite and very short. Few have been willing to share more than a friendly "hello" with me and even fewer have been willing to discuss any details of this mammoth child abuse investigation.

But today, 32-year-old father James Jessop tells me he and his wife are weary. The couple has 5 children in four different foster care facilities.

State child protection officials say they've tried to keep family groups together. But that is not the case with the Jessops.

The kids are spread from Houston to Abileen. The Jessops figure that a single visit to each child is an 18-hundred mile journey.

James Jessop also has two other children by two other wives. He plans to be back in court when each of those cases are scheduled.

Jessop firmly believes the state has attacked the sect for its religious beliefs. But he is among parents who now say they will do anything the state requires to get his children back.

Filed under: David Mattingly • FLDS court hearing • FLDS update • Polygamy
May 19th, 2008
01:10 PM ET

Dispatch from FLDS hearing: Negotiating each child's future

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Ismael Estrada
360° Producer

Hearing's underway in courtroom B in San Angelo, Texas.  The purpose is to review the state's "family service plans" outlining what parents need to do to get their families back, and to make sure the parents understand what the state is requiring.  The state says the plans are tools to help family reunification.

Judge Thomas Gosset presided over one mother, Nora Jeffs, the mother of 8 minor children.  All the cases were grouped into one, as they had the same mother.

Child Protective Services (CPS) child case worker Irene Schweneger (SP?) takes the stand.

One problem, the caseworker says, that the state is looking to remedy is that all 8 of her children have been placed in different parts of the state.  Ms. Jeffs has been driving all over Texas to visit them.

CPS says it is aware that some health issues have popped up while the children have been in CPS care.  The youngest child, a 1- 1/2 year old boy, has had various illnesses including minor ear infections, but the child required hospitalization.  Unsure why.

Filed under: FLDS court hearing • FLDS update • Ismael Estrada • Polygamy
May 16th, 2008
01:36 PM ET

Confusion Still Surrounds FLDS Children

David Mattingly
360° Correspondent

Why did the state have to take all of the kids when it raided the polygamous sect's ranch in West Texas?  Come Monday, the state of Texas will have to start explaining itself one child at a time as these 400-plus custody cases go before judges in San Angelo.  Frustrations abound in this case.  Families say many of the girls in custody who are pregnant or have already given birth are actually adults.  State investigators say they continue to get conflicting information when they ask about ages and try to match kids to their biological parents.  Attorneys representing the kids say the state won't give them the information they need.  No one is happy and no one has any idea how all this will end.  Judges start to try and make sense of it all on Monday when each mother and father begin to find out what the state says they will have to do if they want to get their children back.

Filed under: David Mattingly • FLDS court hearing • FLDS update • Polygamy
April 23rd, 2008
11:33 PM ET

Dispatch from the FLDS Hearing: Care for the Children Part 2

Six months. It’s the amount of time the state of Texas has to determine if the children of FLDS stay in foster care or go back to their parents, again each on an individual basis. Here’s some of what has to happen in that time…

Child Protection Services are calling the need to place the children from FLDS who are in the coliseum “urgent.”

As for the much discussed DNA testing…

DNA collection has been underway in Eldorado Tuesday through Thursday, testing 15 to 20 of the 54 parents who showed up. The Texas Attorney General's office says they have wrapped up taking DNA samples from the children and mothers at the coliseum.

What about the parents whose children are taken away? They’re making arrangements for parents who may be located in other parts of the country, but it will take time. A tricky question came up…what to do with children older than 1 who are still nursing? They’re supposed to be placed in the same city as their mothers.

Today's updates on the FLDS sitation keep pouring in...

New tasks for Child Protection Services to tell you about. They have to put together a “service plan” tracking information like where children are being moved. They will also have to hold “status conferences” as soon as possible, updating on their conditions and talking to the mothers in a setting similar to a hearing.

I'll sign off on a definitive note...

Judge Walthers put his foot down on an aspect of the FLDS case that he thought was getting out of control saying, “I don't want any more emergency filings people. I have 4 to 5 feet high pile of filings in my office now...it's hard to go thru a 5 ft pile of filings if I must keep having hearings. I am not going to address any more emergency filings!”

Filed under: Barclay Palmer • FLDS court hearing • FLDS update • Polygamy
April 23rd, 2008
10:21 PM ET

Dispatch from the FLDS Hearing: Care for the children

Cheryl Getty, Barclay Palmer and Anna Pycior

Big decisions today for the 437 children removed from the Texas ranch of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS).  Here's a quick rundown:

How will the children be cared for?  Judge Barbara Walther says she wants to care for them as individuals, on a case by case basis. Texas Child Protection Services says that will be possible once DNA tests are in. "I feel a personal responsibility to what happens to every child, and I want to be kept updated about that with the children," Walther said.

Are there really pregnant teenagers? Gary Banks, attorney for Texas Child Protection Services (CPS), reported there are some minors with infants and some who are pregnant, though it's not yet clear how many.

How will they take care of infants? To help address each child’s needs, the children will be handled in three groups. Infants up to a year old will not be separated from their mothers if the mothers are adults. Children who are 1 to 2 years old will be separated from their mothers, but the mothers will have visitation rights. If the children are 2-5 years old, though, they’ll be sent to foster home settings.


Filed under: Barclay Palmer • FLDS court hearing • FLDS update • Polygamy
April 22nd, 2008
12:19 PM ET

Dispatch from the FLDS hearing: Even more children

Cheryl Getty
CNN Producer

I just spoke with a representative with the Department of Health snd Family Services, and Child Protective Services (CPS) is a part of this unit.

In regards to the increase in the numbers of children, they tell me that the 416 number was a rushed count, and they have counted again and now have 437.  The new number comes because children were moved to differnet locations snd some have similar names.  So the original count has been updated.

Note: this tells me not to be surprised if this number changes again.  They are discovering some females at the coliseum may have not been forthcoming about their original age and now are being counted as minors.

So at the moment, 437 is the best count they have NOW.

Filed under: FLDS court hearing • Polygamy
April 21st, 2008
11:59 PM ET

Dispatch from FLDS Hearings

Cheryl Getty
CNN Producer


  • Today Judge Walthers held a hearing regarding a temporary restraining order to provide immediate access for attorneys, respect the right to privacy in prayer, and to prevent separation of breast feeding mothers from their children.
  • Andi Sloan, an attorney and executive director for Texas Advocacy Project, spearheaded the hearing for the women and children and Deborah Keenum, a local attorney for young children, assisted.


  • First complaint was that attorneys had to wait in line for hours just to get to see their clients and their clients had no way to get in touch with them and vice versa.
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