January 8th, 2009
09:01 PM ET

Polygamy Teen Bride: Two sides to every story

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/08/art.jeffs.jpg caption="Warren Jeffs kissing his 14-year-old "wife"."]
Melanie Whitley
CNN Assignment Editor

The story of this alleged 14-year-old "wife" is disturbing…See the pictures of her kissing her "husband" Warren Jeffs, leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS). He is in prison after being convicted for his role in arranging the marriage of another underage girl.

The girl in court today should be out playing with her friends..on a soccer team or at the roller skating rink. Instead, the state of Texas is trying to keep her in foster care instead of releasing her back to the polygamist ranch. Court documents show that the 14 year old (who’s name we are not revealing since she is a minor) was only 12 when she allegedly was married to Jeffs. The girl's mother continues to reject all allegations that she's an unfit parent.

This child also thinks her mother did no wrong…They were raised in this polygamist world and they knew no other. This little girl was ripped away from all that she knew and placed in the hands of total strangers.

And the mother has been separated from her daughter..I cannot imagine what the two are going through, but can't help wondering: are they both victims? The goal should be what is best for the child.. What would that be, right now?

Filed under: Melanie Whitley • Polygamy
January 8th, 2009
01:12 PM ET

Polygamists feeling under siege

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/CRIME/04/05/texas.ranch/art.compound.housing.cnn.jpg caption="An aerial view from last year shows some living quarters at polygamist leader Warren Jeffs' Texas ranch."]

Gary Tuchman | BIO
AC360 Correspondent

I know a lot of polygamists. Covering fundamentalist sects that have broken away from the Mormon Church will do that for you.

Most of the women I talk to who share their husband with other women laugh at me when I suggest they are being used and abused. They tend to tell me they can't imagine a life without their "sister wives" and their husband all together.

Meanwhile, men who are married to many wives tend to tell me they have plenty of love to give to all of them; and they often add, ‘why is what they do worse than a single man who has relationships with lots of women, or a husband who cheats on his wife?’


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Filed under: Gary Tuchman • Polygamy
November 26th, 2008
08:12 AM ET

Finally – Merril Jessop indicted

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/04/23/book.292.320.jessop.jpg caption="Carolyn Jessop is a former FLDS Member and Co-Author of Escape." width=292 height=320]
Carolyn Jessop
Author of ESCAPE, and former FLDS member

Relief. Justice. Accountability. Those three words best express my reaction to the news that my ex-husband, Merril Jessop, one of the most powerful men in the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), has been indicted.

Merril, 72, is charged with conducting the marriage of an underage girl—his own daughter—to the FLDS “prophet” Warren Jeffs. I know her; she was 12 years old when she was forced to marry. Merril posted $30,000 in bail yesterday and is free. But he’s been charged with a felony and will stand trial.

Merril is in charge of the compound in Texas that’s home to hundreds of FLDS members and that was raided last April on accusations of marriages of underage girls. In fact, Merril has headed the sect since 2006, when Jeffs was put on the FBI’s Most Wanted List, fled the compound, and was later convicted on a charge related to the marriage of a girl to an older man.

I long ago worked through the anger I felt toward Merril, whom I was forced to marry at 18. I was his fourth wife and we had 8 children in 15 years. Five years ago I fled with all of my children in the middle of the night. The book I wrote about my life, ESCAPE, became a bestseller.

I knew I couldn’t stay silent when crimes were being perpetrated against so many women and children still trapped in the FLDS. I wrote ESCAPE to bring attention to the rampant degradation, humiliation and exploitation that was routinely done by the FLDS in the name of “God.”


Filed under: Carolyn Jessop • Polygamy • Raw Politics
November 25th, 2008
12:07 PM ET

Polygamist leaders indicted – and jailed

Chuck Johnston
CNN National Desk

The patriarch of the world's biggest polygamist sect's compound in Eldorado, Texas turned himself in after being indicted on felony charges. Fredrick Merril Jessop, 72, of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS), is charged with one count of conducting an unlawful marriage ceremony involving a minor, which is a third-degree felony.

Jessop has been running the compound, called the Yearning for Zion Ranch, home to hundreds of church members. He was husband of Carolyn Jessop, who wrote in her best-selling book, "Escape" about their marriage and life in the FLDS, and her frightening escape from Merril Jessop and the compound with her children.

Carolyn Jessop and others have said girls as young 11 have been forced into polygamists marriages with older men, boys have been ejected from the sect on trumped up infractions, and children have been beaten.


Filed under: Chuck Johnston • Crime & Punishment • Polygamy
September 24th, 2008
11:40 AM ET

3 more FLDS members indicted on felony charges

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/09/24/art.polygamy.jpg]

David Mattingly | Bio
AC360° Contributor

Three more members of a polygamous sect led by Warren Jeffs are now facing sexual assault charges associated with the "marriage" of teenage girls to adult men.

That brings the total number of FLDS men indicted by the Texas grand jury to 9. Does that sound like a lot to anyone?

It's been eight months since Texas authorities raided the Yearning for Zion Ranch–taking 400+ children into custody. It's been four months since the courts ordered the state to send them all home.
We don't know the names of the three new defendants. The other six, including Warren Jeffs haven't gone to trial yet..

Texas authorities say the investigation is on-going. I hope we will learn soon where this investigation is actually going and when they plan to get there.

Filed under: David Mattingly • Polygamy
August 22nd, 2008
09:30 AM ET

New polygamist indictments, more martyrdom

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/08/21/jeffsjeffs.jpg caption="Warren Jeffs" width=292 height=320]

Gary Tuchman
AC360° Correspondent

Warren Jeff's fundamentalist polygamist sect has never been so vulnerable.

A grand jury in Texas has indicted three FLDS members on charges related to accusations of sexual abuse of children through marriage of underage girls to older men.

This follows the indictment of five others last month, including Warren Jeffs himself on new charges, Jeffs is already in prison after being convicted as an accomplice to rape for arranging an underage marriage.

There is no reason to doubt that more members of this church are being investigated.

One might think all this is giving some  members second thoughts. But in this church, where the hierarchy is as rigid and strict as old Stalinist regimes, no member in good standing would ever tell an outsider that.

On the contrary, one member I called tells me this "strengthens his faith." It's an attack against their religion, he says.

Justice may be getting served. But it's also increasing a martyr complex among members of this church. And you have to wonder what effect that might have on the men, women and children of this church.

Filed under: FLDS update • Gary Tuchman • Polygamy
August 5th, 2008
06:26 PM ET

Removing girls to protect them – again

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/08/05/fldswomenfldswomen.jpg caption="FLDS women at the Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado, Texas, reacting to the removal of more than 400 children in April."]

Chuck Johnston
CNN National Desk

Two weekends ago, I saw the pictorial in the Sunday New York Times Magazine on the FLDS families living in San Antonio that were profiled, and thought to myself, what comes next in the investigation stemming from the April raid on the polygamy ranch in Eldorado?

And today we learned that the Texas Department of Child Protective Services is seeking foster care for eight children who returned to living with their families on the ranch back in June.

CPS is asking a judge to put the children into foster care because they say “their mothers have refused to limit the children’s contact with men involved in underage marriages.”

CPS is asking the mothers of all girls aged 10-17 to sign safety plans to protect their children from sexual abuse.

Mothers of the eight children who CPS is seeking foster care for have refused to sign the safety plan.

According to CPS, among other things, the safety plan requires that mothers keep children away from a man who “married underage girls or agreed to an arranged marriage on an underage daughter.”

CPS is asking hearings to be set for removal of the eight children.

No word yet on whether the court will grant the hearings.

Filed under: FLDS update • Polygamy
July 24th, 2008
04:21 PM ET

Is Polygamy organized crime?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/07/24/art.jessop.polygamy.hearing.jpg caption="Fundamentalist LDS Church spokesman Willie Jessop talks with reporters on Capitol Hill, today, following the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing: Crimes Associated with Polygamy."]David Mattingly
AC360° Correspondent

When Senator Harry Reid of Nevada accuses polygamists of forming "a sophisticated, wealthy and vast criminal organization" and calls polygamous communities "a form of organized crime," he speaks from experience that goes beyond his role as Senate Majority Leader.

Years ago, Reid was the head of the Nevada Gaming Commission and worked to root out organized crime from Las Vegas casinos. He says polygamous communities in the U.S. are not the same as the old Vegas mobs but he says they continue to engage in crimes too serious to ignore. FULL POST

Filed under: Crime & Punishment • David Mattingly • Polygamy • T1
July 9th, 2008
11:15 AM ET

Polygamist Warren Jeffs taken to Vegas hospital

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/07/09/art.jeffs.jpg]

Jailed polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs was taken to a hospital in Las Vegas on Tuesday, but police would not say why.

Las Vegas police Officer Jose Montoya said Jeffs was taken from an Arizona jail to the Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center in Las Vegas on Tuesday.

"I can't tell you why he was brought here or what his condition is," he said.

He referred questions to the Mohave County Sheriff's Office in Arizona. A call to the sheriff's spokeswoman was not immediately returned.

The jail, in Kingman, Arizona, is about 100 miles from the medical center.

Jeffs, 52, is the leader of the estimated 10,000-member Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

He is awaiting trial on 10 felony charges - five counts of sexual conduct with a minor, four counts of incest and one count of conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor...

Read full story...

Filed under: 360° Radar • Crime & Punishment • Polygamy
June 20th, 2008
05:25 PM ET

Sect leader's daughter accuses FLDS official of harassment

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/CRIME/06/04/texas.polygamist/art.jeffs.file.pool.jpg caption="Warren Jeffs, FLDS leader whose daughtar has accused an FLDS spokesman of harassment."]
Terri Langford
The Houston Chronicle

A lawyer for the 16-year-old daughter of polygamist group leader Warren Jeffs is requesting a restraining order to prevent a spokesman for the group from intimidating and harassing the girl.

The request for a restraining order against Willie Jessop was filed in San Angelo today by Natalie Malonis.

The teenager was one of the hundreds of children taken from the Yearning For Zion Ranch by Texas Child Protective Services in April because investigators believed they were exposed to abuse by members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Her name is not being disclosed because Malonis has said that she is a victim of sexual abuse.


Filed under: Crime & Punishment • Polygamy
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