Court-appointed child advocates for a 16-year-old daughter of Fundamentalist LDS Church leader Warren Jeffs allege she was married a day after her 15th birthday to a 34-year-old man, a court report obtained by the Deseret News said.
The report was filed late Friday in a San Angelo, Texas court. The Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) is weighing in on who should represent Teresa Jeffs in court proceedings.
The girl is seeking to replace her court-appointed ad litem, Natalie Malonis, whom she has accused of not obeying her wishes. Jeffs has asked to meet in chambers with Judge Barbara Walther to make a renewed attempt to replace Malonis.
In the report filed by CASA, which is an independent organization appointed by the courts to act on behalf of a child's best interests, it said that if Jeffs' wishes were followed, "it would place her in a dangerous environment and subject her to sexual abuse."
Citing evidence collected by Texas law enforcement and Child Protective Services, the report said there was little doubt that Jeffs was "spiritually married" to a man named Raymond Jessop in a ceremony presided over by Warren Jeffs.
It based its conclusions on photographs, marriage records, letters, cards and diary entries suggesting an "intimate relationship." CASA also said it had obtained a "dictation" prepared by Warren Jeffs, showing the two were married on July 27, 2006. FLDS leaders Wendell Nielson and Merril Jessop witnessed the ceremony, CASA claims.
"The dictation indicates that Teresa's own father officiated over the marriage and further indicates that Annette Jeffs actively encouraged and participated in carrying out the marriage between a barely 15-year-old Teresa and a 34-year-old adult male, who has been identified to CASA as Raymond Jessop," the report said.
Warren Jeffs was a fugitive on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list at the time the marriage was performed. He was arrested in a traffic stop near Las Vegas in August 2006. The evidence cited in the CASA report could be used in criminal investigations into Jeffs and other FLDS members.
The Deseret News normally does not name sex-abuse victims, but Teresa Jeffs has gone public in media interviews and in statements insisting she is no victim.
"Shut your mouth up and quit calling me a victim of sexual abuse," she wrote in an e-mail to Malonis, which was published on an FLDS-run Web site. "I am so sick of being called that when I am absolutely not a victim of sexual abuse and you have no evidence to prove that I have ever had sexual relations."
A call to an FLDS spokesman was not immediately returned late Friday.
"It speaks for itself," Malonis said of the report. "I hate that it's come to the point that any of this has to be an issue. I certainly wish that we didn't have to do this. I wish she'd been left alone and that there weren't other attorneys and community members trying so hard to persuade her to influence her against her own attorney."
CASA recommended to the judge that she not sever Malonis' relationship with Jeffs, encourage the girl to work with her attorney and order anyone else "interfering" in the case to halt any contact with her. Malonis successfully obtained a restraining order against FLDS member Willie Jessop, accusing him of intimidating her and trying to coerce Jeffs into avoiding a grand jury subpoena.
Jeffs was subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury in Eldorado, Texas, investigating crimes within the FLDS Church. The Schleicher County grand jury will next meet on Tuesday.
Teresa Jeffs was among hundreds of children taken in a raid on the FLDS Church's YFZ Ranch in April, when child welfare authorities and law enforcement responded to a call alleging abuse. The children were ultimately returned when two Texas courts ruled the state acted improperly and there was no evidence they were all in imminent danger.The call itself is still being investigated as a hoax.