253 FLDS children now dropped from YFZ custody battle

Published: Thursday, Aug. 28 2008 3:08 p.m. MDT

In what is now becoming a daily occurrence as the nation's biggest child-custody case moves forward, Texas child welfare authorities have filed to "nonsuit" more children taken in the raid on the Fundamentalist LDS Church's YFZ Ranch.

Texas Child Protective Services spokesman Patrick Crimmins confirmed 56 more children from the Utah-based polygamous sect were nonsuited in a San Angelo court on Thursday.

"The total number of individuals nonsuited is 253 (including the 26 disputed minors)," Crimmins told the Deseret News.

The decision to nonsuit ends court jurisdiction over the children, but it does not necessarily end CPS oversight. The reasons to nonsuit have ranged from no evidence of abuse to their parents taking adequate steps to protect them. Children also have turned 18 and are aging out of the system.

"The nonsuits are part of the process as we continue to work through the cases. The investigation continues, and those findings we have yet to announce," Crimmins said. "The lawsuits are in a different category. We're nonsuiting those as we work through them."

Hundreds of people were taken into state protective custody when child welfare workers and law enforcement went to the FLDS Church's ranch near Eldorado, Texas, on April 3. Authorities were responding to a call from someone claiming to be a pregnant 16-year-old trapped in an abusive marriage to an older man. The call is under investigation as a hoax.

On-site, authorities said they saw other signs of abuse that prompted a judge to order the removal of all of the children. They were placed in temporary shelters, then ordered to foster care. Two FLDS mothers gave birth, bringing the total to 465.

A pair of Texas courts ordered the children returned after ruling the state acted improperly and showed no evidence of imminent danger. The 26 "disputed minors" were people who CPS initially believed were children, but FLDS members insisted were adults.

Recently, a 14-year-old girl was returned to foster care after a judge ruled her mother, Barbara Jessop, could not adequately protect her from abuse. Authorities allege the girl was married at age 12 to FLDS leader Warren Jeffs in a ceremony presided over by her father, YFZ Ranch leader Merril Jessop.

"The foster parents I am with are nice & treat me well," the girl wrote in a letter to her mother recently posted on the FLDS Web site truthwillprevail.org. "Nothing is the same as home, but pretty soon I will be with you — which is the happiest place to be.

"May our Loving Heavenly Father hear our fervant prayers and comfort us. I know he is doing it and will allow us to be together once again."


E-mail: bwinslow@desnews.com

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