ELDORADO, Texas Fundamentalist LDS Church leader Warren Jeffs and two of his followers are the latest to be indicted by a grand jury here on third-degree felony bigamy charges.
The indictments were unsealed after Raymond Merril Jessop, 36, and Michael George Emack, 57, surrendered to authorities at the Schleicher County Sheriff's Office Friday afternoon. They were booked and released after each posted $10,000 bond.
"Of course, Warren's in jail," Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran told the Deseret News after the arrests were made. "But they were able to post bond immediately. Everything was cooperative."
Jeffs, 52, is in an Arizona jail where he is awaiting trial on sexual misconduct charges accusing him of performing underage marriages. The FLDS leader was convicted in Utah of rape as an accomplice and sentenced to a pair of 5-to-life sentences for performing a marriage between a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin.
"We received a detainer, which notifies us of his warrant status," said Trish Carter, a spokeswoman for the Mohave County Sheriff's Office in Kingman, Ariz., where Jeffs is jailed.
Texas authorities have said they will seek to extradite Jeffs to face charges.
Details of the latest indictments, which were handed up on Thursday, were not released, but it is apparent they stem from polygamous marriages within the Utah-based sect. All three men were indicted last month on sexual assault charges by the same grand jury investigating crimes within the FLDS Church, accusing them of sex with underage girls.
Six men have been indicted in total, including Allan Eugene Keate, 56, and Merril Leroy Jessop, 33, who was also indicted on sexual assault and bigamy charges.
FLDS community physician Lloyd Hammon Barlow, 38, was indicted on misdemeanor charges of failure to report child abuse. Barlow's charges will be handled in county court, said Schleicher County Attorney Raymond Loomis.
The criminal cases grew out of an April raid on the FLDS Church's YFZ Ranch near here. Acting on a call from someone claiming to be a pregnant 16-year-old trapped in an abusive marriage to an older man, Texas child welfare authorities and law enforcement went to the secluded ranch.
The call is believed to be a hoax, but authorities said that on site, they saw evidence of other abuses. That prompted a judge to order the removal of hundreds of FLDS children. The children were returned home a couple of months later after two Texas courts ruled the state acted improperly and the children were not in any immediate danger.
Meanwhile, the grand jury continues to hold its secret proceedings, and Child Protective Services' investigation into abuse and neglect continues.
Earlier this week, a 14-year-old girl was placed in a foster home after Texas 51st District Judge Barbara Walther said her mother, Barbara Jessop, was unable to protect the girl from abuse.
Authorities have claimed the girl was married to Warren Jeffs at age 12.
"Mother! Mother! Please don't let me go! Mother!" the girl wailed as she was taken from her home. The tearful parting is shown in a video clip posted Friday on an FLDS Web site. "Mother! Don't let them take me! They're not nice!" the girl cried.
On Friday, Texas CPS asked a judge to end court oversight of 18 more cases involving children taken in the raid. The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services filed papers to "nonsuit" cases involving 49 children.
"That involves 18 moms," said agency spokeswoman Marleigh Meisner.
The decision to nonsuit ends the court oversight of the cases but does not end CPS' role in the cases "because they are technically still under investigation," Meisner told the Deseret News on Friday, adding that it was possible that more children will be nonsuited as the case progresses.
CPS has already nonsuited approximately 176 cases in the months since the April raid for various reasons. Some were the "disputed minors," whom child welfare authorities claimed were children but were really adults. Others turned 18, their parents took adequate steps to protect them from abuse or CPS found no sign of abuse or neglect.A judge has ordered many FLDS parents to attend classes, undergo psychological evaluations and provide support for their children.
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