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Mike Terry, Deseret News
FLDS women arrive prior to the Schleicher County grand jury meeting in Eldorado, Texas today.

ELDORADO, Texas — The grand jury investigating crimes within the Fundamentalist LDS Church returned three felony indictments against three separate people, a court clerk confirmed.

The indictments come following daylong hearings today in which testimony was taken from several young women and the church's spokesman, among others.

Earlier, about a half-dozen women were brought to the Schleicher County Memorial Building, which acted as a one-room courthouse for the proceedings. They huddled with their attorneys until they were called, one by one, to go in before the panel made up of ordinary residents of this small west Texas county.

"We're not going to answer any questions," one lawyer for an FLDS woman told reporters gathered earlier outside yellow sheriff's tape that surrounds the building.

FLDS member and spokesman Willie Jessop was unsure if any indictments would be issued.

"We're always hoping for a miracle," Jessop said Thursday.

Late Wednesday afternoon, Jessop was called before the jury. A few times, he stepped out of the building to meet with his attorneys before going back in to continue testifying.

"If I was just observing, I'd be in Utah," he joked with reporters when asked if he was subpoenaed. After more than an hour, Jessop finally emerged. He told reporters the experience has been painful for everyone involved.

"We certainly believe there's a God, and we believe He will judge all," he said. "Those who judge will be judged themselves."

Jessop said his heart goes out to all of the girls involved in this case, as another young woman was summoned inside to testify.

Texas 51st District Judge Barbara Walther, who is overseeing the nation's biggest child custody case, was seen at the nearby Schleicher County Courthouse as the grand jury got under way, but clerks said she was dealing with another matter and not the FLDS case. On Friday, Walther heard a motion to quash a subpoena made by a lawyer presumably representing a member of the polygamous sect. The hearing was held behind closed doors.

The grand jury will meet again Sept. 23.

Already, six FLDS men have been indicted. An arraignment has been scheduled in Eldorado on Sept. 8. They include:

• FLDS leader Warren Jeffs, 52, indicted on a charge of sexual assault with a girl under 17.

• Allan Eugene Keate, 56, indicted on a charge of sexual assault in a purported marriage with a girl under 17. A search warrant made public on Wednesday sought a DNA sample to establish paternity with a girl he purportedly married at age 15.

• Merril Leroy Jessop, 33, indicted on sexual assault and bigamy charges.

• Raymond Merril Jessop, 36, indicted on a sexual assault charge.

• Michael Emack, 57, on a charge of sexual assault.

• Dr. Lloyd Hammon Barlow, 38, the FLDS community's physician, on misdemeanor charges of failure to report child abuse.

The sexual assault charges, all first-degree felonies, involve minors.

A court hearing for Barlow has not been scheduled. Jeffs, who is currently in an Arizona jail awaiting trial on sexual misconduct charges there, is getting notice of the hearing. Texas authorities have said they would seek to extradite him to face charges here.

As the young women waited to testify today, they killed time by whipping out digital cameras and taking pictures of everything around them: Texas Rangers, their lawyers and news reporters, joking with a Deseret News photographer about who would have the best pictures.


E-mail: bwinslow@desnews.com