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Texas judge closes last custody case in YFZ raid

Published July 23, 2009 5:25 pm

FLDS » Fifteen-yea-old girl placed in permanent custody of her aunt.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The last FLDS child in Texas state custody is home -- but not with her parents.

A Texas judge signed an order Thursday permanently placing the last child taken from the polygamous sect's ranch into a relative's care, ending the state's involvement in the massive case.

The girl, now 15, was allegedly spiritually married to FLDS leader Warren S. Jeffs in July 2006 when she was 12. She was the only child of the 439 removed during a state investigation at the Yearning for Zion Ranch in April 2008 still in state custody.

Tom Green County Judge Barbara Walther ruled that Naomi Carlisle, an aunt, will have permanent managing conservatorship of the girl and has exclusive right to determine where she lives.

Walther granted Barbara Jessop, the girl's mother, supervised visits with her daughter, to be overseen by Carlisle. The judge limited the rights of the girl's father, Merril Jessop, to providing $180 a month in child support and getting her medical insurance.

Barbara Jessop also was ordered to pay Carlisle $180 a month to support her daughter.

The judge said the girl is to have no contact with Warren S. Jeffs, the imprisoned leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

"The last child is now back with a member of her family, and they can all move on with their lives," said a statement from Valerie Malara of Colorado and Brett Pritchard of Texas, Barbara Jessop's attorneys.

Willie Jessop, a spokesman for the sect, said: "We promised there would be no child left behind, and this shows it."

The state initially sought to terminate the Jessops' rights or place the teen in permanent foster care. But in May, Texas child welfare officials agreed to let the girl live with Carlisle, ending nine months of foster care.

"We believe all of these children are safer because of our intervention," said a statement from Anne Heiligenstein, commissioner of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. "The families now know that the state of Texas will not tolerate sexual abuse disguised as 'spiritual marriage.' These families also know that if abuse is reported again, we will respond."

While Walther ended the state's involvement in the girl's case, she ordered Carlisle to give yearly reports on the girl's status.