FLDS leaders surrender Monday at county jail
Two of Warren Jeffs’ top lieutenants in the FLDS church surrendered themselves Monday at the Schleicher County Jail, along with a third defendant, following a series of indictments handed down on November 12th by Schleicher County grand jurors.
Frederick Merril Jessop, 72, Wendell Loy Nielsen, 68, and Leroy Johnson Steed, 42, were released quickly after being booked into the jail and immediately posting bail.
The men were escorted to the jail by FLDS spokesman Willie Jessop where they were met by an attorney, a bail bondsman and a Texas Ranger. As soon as the men were processed at the jail, their indictments, which had remained sealed until their arrests, were made public.
Sides agree on infant’s DNA
A deal was reached Tuesday afternoon between child welfare authorities and a 17-year-old girl who had refused to allow officials to collect a DNA sample from the infant, or even tell authorities where her child was.
Judge Barbara Walther ordered terms of the agreement not to be disclosed.
Child Protective Service workers were trying to obtain the sample from the infant girl in order to determine her father’s identity.
The judge had ordered on Friday that the girl must allow CPS officials to examine the baby. The child is believed to have been born in the weeks following the raid on the YFZ Ranch near Eldorado last April.
Authorities believe they have evidence that the girl was married to a man in the FLDS church when she was only 14-years-old.
The girl has been resisting the state’s attempts to examine the child, who she said Tuesday was traveling out of state. Shortly before the agreement was reached she told the judge she would not reveal the child’s whereabouts.
YFZ defendants appear for arraignment before Judge Walther
Defense attorneys ask judge to restrict press coverage, seek information on grand jurors
ELDORADO — Eight residents of the YFZ Ranch appeared for an arraignment hearing Monday in Eldorado before 51st District Court Judge Barbara Walther.
Raymond Merril Jessop, Merril Leroy Jessop, Allan Eugene Keate, Michael George Emack, Abram Harker Jeffs, Fredrick Merril Jessop, Lehi Barlow Jeffs, and Leroy Johnson Steed each appeared with their attorneys to hear a formal reading of charges against them. The men were all indicted by a Schleicher County Grand Jury on charges stemming from the April raid on the YFZ Ranch.
Two other men, Keith William Dutson, Jr., and Wendell Loy Nielsen, were not present for Monday’s hearing. Their cases were held over for a later date. Dutson was indicted on a single charge of Sexual Assault of a Child while Nielsen was indicted on three charges of Bigamy.
State investigators obtain DNA sample from FLDS infant
Investigators with the Texas Attorney General’s office served a search warrant Monday at a residence in San Antonio and obtained a DNA sample from a 5-month-old baby whose teenage mother had previously refused to produce the child or answer question’s about its whereabouts.
Authorities have questioned the child’s paternity ever since it was born on June 14th. The infant’s mother was in state custody at the time, following the raid at the YFZ Ranch.
A spokesperson for the Office of Attorney General says the sample will be used in an ongoing criminal investigation.
Court documents filed since the raid indicate that child welfare authorities believe the child’s mother, now 17, was married to a male member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints when she was only 14, well below the legal age of consent in Texas.
Yedidiyah Hawkins gets 30 years for aggravated sexual assault of a child
ABILENE — District Judge John Weeks sentenced a Callahan County religious sect elder to 30 years in prison, last week after he was convicted of aggravated sexual assault of a child. Yedidiyah Hawkins, 41, faced a maximum penalty of life in prison for molesting his 11-year-old daughter during a phony cervical cancer exam.
Testimony revealed that despite having no medical training, Hawkins used a gynecological medical instrument to examine the girl in 2005. He was reportedly concerned that the girl was not a virgin.
Callahan County District Attorney Shane Deel read letters Hawkins had written while in jail, during the penalty phase of the trial. The letters indicate he has become more and more obsessed with another young member of the House of Yahweh and had in fact chose her to be his fifth bride.
Six bus loads of children removed from YFZ Ranch
|Six bus loads of children removed from YFZ Ranch
Community turns out to help feed and house the youngsters
The Eldorado Success
School buses and buses from First Baptist Church of Eldorado were used Friday to transport 167 children from the YFZ Ranch to the Schleicher County Civic Center where they were turned over to representatives of Child Protective Services. There are reportedly 96 boys and 71 girls in the group with ages ranging from 6 months to 17 years.
ELDORADO, TEXAS -- Buses from Schleicher County ISD and First Baptist Church of Eldorado were pressed into service Friday to transport 167 children away from the YFZ Ranch where they had been removed from their parents custody by Texas Child Protective Services in accordance with a court order issued by 51st District Judge Barbara Walther.
The children range in age from 6 months of 17 years. There are 96 boys and 71 girls. CPS is trying to determine if the parents of the babies are among the young girls they took into custody, or if the parents even live at the YFZ Ranch.
CPS is seeking immediate temporary custody of 18 of the children while the remainder are to be interviewed to determine if they are "at risk."
Community members as well as congregations from a several Eldorado churches began preparing food for the children. They also helped prepare cots and bedding in hopes of making the children as comfortable as possible.
The move to take the children into custody began with a CPS that an underage girl at the YFZ was being sexually and physically abused. Law enforcement officers sealed of all the roads, leading to the YFZ Ranch late Thursday afternoon. The lawmen demanded entry to the ranch just before midnight that evening and they escorted CPS workers on to YFZ property without incident.
CPS interviews of the children lasted throughout the night and well into the afternoon on Friday. That's when a number of buses began transporting children from the YFZ Ranch to the Schleicher County Civic Center south of Eldorado. There the children were turned over to CPS workers.
It is not clear who will end up with custody of the children once hearings are held Monday before 51st District Judge Barbara Walther in San Angelo.
CPS spokeswoman Marleigh Meisner stated Friday that the residents at the YFZ had cooperated with investigators by providing access to children they needed to interview.
Lawmen were also hoping to serve an arrest warrant and a search warrant while on the compound. It is unknown if either were successfully executed.
Meanwhile, the roadblocks continued into the night Friday as lawmen were told to prepare for another long and chilly night.
The YFZ Ranch is home to members of a polygamous sect from Utah known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS). The group purchased the property near Eldorado in late 2003. The following year they began construction of numerous dormitory style buildings and a massive white limestone temple. Since that time a small town has been built on the property.
FLDS Church leader Warren Jeffs was convicted last year on two counts of Rape as an Accomplice for his role in arranging and performing marriages between one of his male followers and his underage cousin. Jeffs is facing similar charges in Arizona as well as a federal charge of Unlawful Flight to avoid Prosecution. He was on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List until his capture near Las Vegas Nevada in 2006.
The Eldorado Success will report more details as they become available. Check this website for the latest news.