SAN ANGELO — The state will retain custody of a newborn born to members of a West Texas polygamous sect, attorneys for two sides in the biggest custody battle in state history agreed today.
The baby, Richard Daniel Jessop, who was born on May 12, more than a month after authorities raided the ranch outside Eldorado where his parents lived, will remain in state protective custody along with his two older siblings. Their mother, Louisa Bradshaw Jessop, 22, will be permitted to live with her children, under state supervision, at a soon-to-be-chosen residence.
"It's one step closer to getting my family reunited," the baby's father, Dan Jessop, said outside the courtroom.
As part of today's hearing, the state had planned to call as many as eight girls in CPS custody to testify about the prevalence of underage marriage on the Yearning for Zion Ranch.
This morning's agreement put a halt to those plans, and thus was seen as a victory of sorts for the followers of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Dan Jessop said he wasn't eager to hear testimony from one of his younger sisters, who CPS indicated had been forced in 2006 to marry the sect's prophet, Warren Jeffs.
"Not with the abusive way the state goes about it," Dan Jessop said.
On Friday, CPS attorneys introduced a series of photographs of Jeffs embracing or kissing three girls who appeared underage, including Jessop's younger sister. Dan Jessop's wife, Louisa, indicated that her underage sister-in-law lived on the ranch, and possibly in the building where she and Dan resided.
CPS attorneys tried to argue that the Jessops lived communally with their fellow sect members; under that logic, a sexual predator on the ranch might pose a danger to all children.
In more than four hours of testimony Friday, Dan and Louisa Jessop insisted they lived separately and apart from the others, though the building where they lived had a communal kitchen and living room and washer/dryer.
CPS said it found evidence on the ranch last month that underage girls were being spiritually married to much older men and forced to bear children. CPS said that evidence put all the children at risk.— girls were being groomed to submit to underage marriage and boys were being groomed to become adult abusers.
The Texas Supreme Court is expected to rule this week whether the state acted appropriately in seizing more than 400 children, infants included. An appeals court last week ruled that the San Angelo judge who ordered the children into temporary custody exceeded her authority.
Texas to retain custody of newborn from polygamist sect Chron.com - Houston Chronicle
CPS retains custody of infant from polygamist sect Dallas Morning News News for Dallas, Texas Texas Regional News