ELDORADO, Texas A grand jury investigating alleged crimes within the Fundamentalist LDS Church will meet here again today, with the possibility of more indictments being handed up.
Six men, including FLDS leader Warren Jeffs, have already been indicted on charges ranging from sexual assault to bigamy and failure to report child abuse. If evidence entered into court in nearby San Angelo is any indication, more members of the Utah-based polygamous sect can expect to face criminal charges.
Marriage records, bishop's records, dictations, love letters,
diaries and photographs were among the hundreds of thousands of pieces of evidence seized during the April raid on the church's YFZ Ranch. Some of that evidence has been used in child-custody cases that played out this week in nearby San Angelo.
A list of underage girls allegedly married to older men, compiled by Texas Child Protective Services, gives indications as to who is under investigation. Some of the cases involve men who have already been indicted.
The CPS list shows 10 cases involving marriages of girls ranging in age from 12 to 16 at the time of their alleged marriages. Law enforcement e-mails, written in April and obtained earlier this month by the Deseret News through a government public records request, indicated Texas Rangers were investigating as many as 20 cases of sexual assault and 50 cases of bigamy.
The Texas Attorney General's Office, which is heading up the prosecutions, will only say the case remains under investigation.
Warren Jeffs himself is believed to have married at least four girls, including a 14-year-old girl who was ordered back into foster care on Tuesday after a judge ruled her mother, Barbara Jessop, was unable to protect her from abuse. Authorities allege that at age 12, the girl was wed to Jeffs in a ceremony performed by her father, YFZ Ranch leader Merril Jessop.
Another 12-year-old girl is seen in photographs beaming next to a photo of Jeffs. A letter, in neat cursive, is written around the pictures.
"I have been missing you," she wrote to her then-fugitive husband. "I love your Heavenly smile shining bright. Thank you sweet heart for all you do. ... I yearn to only do your will in all I do. I am praying to become a Heavenly comfort wife for you. I love you so much I pray I may be worthy to advance. I fill (sic) you so close. Love always."
Jeffs, 52, is currently in an Arizona jail facing trial on sexual misconduct charges, accusing him of performing underage marriages. Jeffs was convicted and sentenced to five years to life in Utah for rape as an accomplice for performing a marriage between a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin.
A search warrant made public on Wednesday said that authorities sought a DNA sample from one of the already-indicted men, 56-year-old Allan Eugene Keate. Using records obtained in the raid on the YFZ Ranch, Texas Rangers allege Keate married a 15-year-old girl in 2005.
"The marriage of Keate and (Jane) Doe was one of two marriages for Allan Eugene Keate on May 5, 2005," Texas Ranger Nick Hanna wrote in an affidavit filed July 28.
The girl, whom authorities say was the fifth of six wives of Keate, gave birth to a son on Dec. 30, 2006. A cheek swab was taken on July 28 to determine paternity of the child.
"As Jane Doe was only 15 years of age and Allan Eugene Keate was 52 years of age at the time of marriage and Jane Doe was approximately 16 years of age at the time of conception, affiant believes Allan Eugene Keate has committed the offense of sexual assault of a child," Hanna wrote.
The FLDS Church recently clarified its policy on marriage and said it does not condone any unions involving underage girls. FLDS member and spokesman Willie Jessop said no marriages have been performed within the church for the past two years.
Marriage records show many of the marriages under investigation took place at Jeffs' home on the YFZ Ranch. Some also allegedly took place in Hildale, Utah.
Those particular marriages are of interest to the Utah Attorney General's Office, which has been conducting investigations into Jeffs and the FLDS Church.
"There has been cooperation among several states about any evidence," said attorney general's spokesman Paul Murphy. "If there's evidence of any criminal wrongdoing in Utah, we're interested."
The evidence may be on shaky ground, however. A judge in San Angelo has scheduled an Oct. 1 hearing on a challenge to the search and seizure of documents from the YFZ Ranch. Lawyers for FLDS leaders argue the search was improper to begin with, and anything seized may fall under priest-penitent privilege.
The grand jury proceedings are typically secret, but this one has been highly public ever since it convened, largely because of the attention surrounding the nation's biggest child-custody case.A hearing was held behind closed doors on Friday at the Tom Green County Courthouse dealing with the FLDS grand jury. Lawyers for a member of the church sought to quash a subpoena related to either testimony or documents, but neither side would reveal details of what happened, citing grand jury secrecy.
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