Attorney for two-year-old FLDS child
We needed access to the information about these kids. I collect info in any way and every which way I can.
So... I found the lawyers representing the sibling of my client. We agreed they could watch the hearing and I wouldn't worry about missing it. And I left to find out as many facts as I could about the case and about how this very unique mass custody hearing would play out.
The process of such mass procedings, with 400 lawyers trying to represent their clients, and having the access to the information we need to do our job, just needed to be worked out.
And we did it, at least for now.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/04/18/art.escapefinal.jpg%5D
co-author of ESCAPE, her memoir of life in the FLDS and her escape from it
One of the aspects of my former life people are always curious about is the clothing women in the FLDS wear. Sometimes the media refers to it as “pioneer-style” clothing or “Little House on the Prairie” attire. With their long dresses, long underwear and hair piled high on their heads women in the FLDS look like they are racing headlong into the 19th century.
It looks bizarre to me now, but I wore clothing like that for 35 years. This all started after the disastrous Short Creek raid in 1953. That raid is a focal point in FLDS history. Arizona officials raided the polygamist community and tried to break it up. But they failed when wrenching pictures of mothers being separated from their children were published in newspapers and there was a huge public outcry.
But the raid turned out to be a huge plus for the FLDS because so much sympathy was generated. After the court case was tossed out, people came home and continued the polygamist lifestyle but became even more secretive.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/04/18/art.polygamisthearingend.jpg caption=" Members of the FLDS Church walk out of the Tom Green County Courthouse following a custody hearing in San Angelo, TX "]
Judge Barbara Walther says:
-As to each child in each case, the court has heard sufficient evidence.
-Their requirements have been met... The court keeps the children...
-The court is ordering (DNA) maternity and paternity testing for each child.
-There will be a mobile lab at San Angelo coliseum...
-If you are a parent and have been or should have been named, please provide that information for DNA testing...
The hearing ends.
FLDS members are not talking so far...
They are all quietly leaving.
Ismael Estrada, CNN Supervising Producer
New witness Linda Musser takes the stand:
-She is 56, has a son, Damian Jason Musser, 13, in CPS custody.
-She was 20 when she married, divorced in 1999, husband was drinking, with diabetes, yelled at children, was abusive.
-She has a daughter, 29, who had medical problems when born, is a dialysis patient, is allowed to come and go as she pleases.
-Has other kids, 2 left the FLDS, they wanted a different kind of life. The children were married, at 19, 20, 21, 20, and the other was over 20.
-Each child has their own individual personality because they have individual mothers.
-She is willing to move away to get her son back.
-She would do whatever the court required to do.
-Amos Musser, her husband, is no longer on the ranch.
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Katherine Wojtecki, CNN Producer
FLDS member # 2 Moreen Jessop takes the stand:
-married. Husband is 27
-children ages 4, 2 and ½, and 11 months
-how many people live on your dwelling? I don’t know
-Do you share any other living space with any other families? No.
-when did your parents tell you when you should get married? When I felt capable of taking care of responsibilities. I wasn’t married until I was 18.
-Yes sometimes I felt immature at 18.
-did you go to college? Yes
-what kind of training did you receive? EMT training
-in addition I also had a computer programming course and then decided to stay home and take care of my baby
-were you given that choice to go to school? Yes.
-did you feel like as a female you had that choice? Yes
-husband did not want me to take the training but did anyway.
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.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/04/18/art.polygamisthearing.jpg%5D
Dr. John Walsh, expert for the defense:
-They make their own clothes, grow their own food and pray in their spare time.
-Boys start to rebel about singing church hymns in their spare time. If they rebel, they could be ex-communicated from the church, thus term lost boys.
-Youngest I have heard of boy being subject to being thrown out is 14.
-We would find that lost boys had been unfairly shunned. But it would be harmful to keep him in community if they did not like the lifestyle.
-Have not spoken to anyone at YFZ ranch.
-Sexual relations would not be discussed in home. They don’t talk about sex with their children.
-Marriage they talk about all the time in their household and when they go to church. If you take away the polygamy aspect, their teachings about marriage would be the same as in a Baptist or Catholic Church.
-Traditional FLDS community out in Eldorado.
-Walsh, expert for the Defense, says that Warren Jeff’s encourages marriage…but is indifferent to the age appointment. Walsh says Jeff’s doesn’t look at age, it’s just that age is not relevant.
-Walsh is asked whether he has any personal knowledge of arranged marriages with Jeff’s … He says no he does not have any personal knowledge….
-Walsh says that a girl would NOT be eligible at for marriage unless she was menstruating… Walsh says that of his own personal knowledge of arranged marriages with others, 13 is the youngest he knows of….
-Walsh says that FLDS believe that having children is a sacred calling. He says that there is a belief that a woman’s willingness to have more children may be held at a higher esteem. But it’s not looked down of if a woman can’t have children , only if she WON’T…
Attorney for the 4 year old childrens begins asking questions to John Walsh
-The lawyer asks Dr John Walsh if he felt children were in danger if they were under the age of 13 or not yet reached puberty…
First witness: Dr John Walsh. Credentials include PHD in religious studies, but will only talk about the history of church in general.
*Historically, the only use of the bed in a temple is for temple worship itself. The worshop lasts a couple hours so all temples will have a place where someone can lie down. To my knowledge there has never been any sexual activity in a morman temple.
*Family practices of FLDs vary from family to family. This comes from reading hundreds of books and personal interviews.
*Walsh has NOT been able to intv children at coliseum *Walsh has 18 yrs of experience studying this religion.
*Walsh says family of FLDS will be centered around the husband who have one or more wives formal or informal arrangements.
-would need info on specifics of child, father, all kinds of stuff needs to be gathered in regards to mothers, which will take time.
Orange group asks about a 27-year-old mother who is with her children in the coliseum, where the state took children removed from the FLDS compound. If a mom with 2 kids would accept services from Child Protection Services and lived away from the ranch, would you determine that children are at risk or should kids be removed from mom?