7 Feb 2009

Judge dismisses polygamist custody case, lawyer

Houston Chronicle - February 6, 2009

by Terri Langford

The contentious Texas child welfare case involving polygamist leader Warren Jeffs’ 17-year-old daughter ended Friday when a West Texas judge dismissed the girl’s attorney and the custody case itself.

The teen, married at 15 to a 34-year-old man, was one of 439 children taken from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints’ ranch last year by Texas Child Protective Services after the agency found evidence underage girls were being married to adult men.

While CPS officials have returned all of the children to their parents after the Texas Supreme Court ruled against the action, the teen’s case had been one still working its way through state District Judge Barbara Walther’s court in San Angelo.

The 17-year-old’s story was one of several central to the state of Texas’ criminal case. She reportedly divulged in her diary, recovered from the raid of the sect’s Yearning For Zion Ranch, that she was married by her father to Raymond Jessop, who is the son of Jeffs’ chief deputy, Merril Jessop. Raymond Jessop was indicted last year by an Eldorado grand jury with one count of sexual assault with a minor.

Last week, CPS officials informed Walther that court oversight was no longer needed in the teen’s case. Her father is in jail, and her husband cannot contact her as part of his bond condition.

On Friday, Walther informed the girl’s attorney, Natalie Malonis, she was no longer needed as court-appointed counsel.

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