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Texas authorities obtain DNA from jailed FLDS leader Warren Jeffs

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Texas authorities obtained DNA samples from jailed Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) leader Warren Jeffs on Friday, as part of an ongoing criminal investigation into charges of abuse. Jerry Strickland of the Texas Attorney General's office told the Associated Press that the samples were taken from Jeffs while he awaits trial in an Arizona jail. According to the AP, the DNA search warrant alleges that Jeffs had "spiritual" marriages with four girls, ages 12 to 15.

The search warrant was filed in Mohave County Superior Court in Kingman, Arizona. Jeffs is alleged to have sexually assaulted one of the 12-year-old girls after their July 2006 "spiritual" marriage, and is also alleged to have married a 14-year-old girl in January 2004 who gave birth to a child in October 2005. Police say the girl was believed to be about 15 at the time of conception by Jeffs.

Cquote1.svg Based on all of the above, affiant believes that Warren Jeffs has committed the felony offense of sexual assault of a child. Cquote2.svg

—Quote from the DNA search warrant, per Deseret News

Texas officials are investigating Jeffs for crimes of sexual assault of a child, aggravated sexual assault and prohibited sexual assault. The search warrant alleges: "Warren Jeffs sexually assaulted a 12-year-old child ... on or about July 27, 2006, in Schleicher County, Texas," according to a copy of the warrant obtained by the Deseret News. "Based on all of the above, affiant believes that Warren Jeffs has committed the felony offense of sexual assault of a child," wrote Kingman, Arizona police officer Dennis Gilbert in the search warrant. Law enforcement officials say that another marriage took place on April 16, 2005 between Jeffs and a 12-year-old girl.

Jeffs is alleged to have "married" the children at the FLDS compound in Eldorado, Texas. Marital records known in the FLDS as "bishop's records" allegedly document a January 18, 2004 marriage between Jeffs and a 14-year-old girl. The documents were obtained when Texas authorities conducted a search of the FLDS compound in Texas, the Yearning for Zion Ranch, on April 3. According to the Fort Worth Star Telegram the warrant also alleges that Jeffs married a 14-year-old girl at the YFZ compound on July 22, 2004.

According to the Las Vegas Review, the DNA samples were taken from Jeffs on Thursday afternoon via a cotton swab of the mouth. Kingman police detectives took the sample after Texas authorities asked for help in their investigation of Jeffs. Kingman police executed the search warrant and affidavit of probable cause, and authorities from the Texas Attorney General's office left Thursday with the samples.

Cquote1.svg Our investigator was out there yesterday collecting the DNA sample after getting the search warrant signed. Cquote2.svg

—Jerry Strickland, Texas Attorney General's office

"Our investigator was out there yesterday collecting the DNA sample after getting the search warrant signed," said Texas Attorney General's office spokesman Jerry Strickland in a statement Friday to the AP.

In a statement Saturday in the Deseret News, Rod Parker, a Salt Lake City, Utah attorney and FLDS spokesman questioned what evidence law enforcement possessed which could show possible criminal actions by Jeffs. "The question is, do they have any evidence of sexual activity with minors and Warren Jeffs? I don't know if they do or not. I don't see how DNA, by itself, proves that one way or another."

Cquote1.svg The question is, do they have any evidence of sexual activity with minors and Warren Jeffs? ... I don't see how DNA, by itself, proves that one way or another. Cquote2.svg

—Rod Parker, FLDS spokesman

Photos of Jeffs pictured with underage child brides were shown in court last week in an FLDS custody case in Texas. The photos show Warren Jeffs kissing and hugging young girls, and attorneys for Texas Child Protective Services claim that one of the girls shown in the photos is a 12-year-old "bride". The photos are dated from July 2006 and January 2005.

Jeffs is seen in one set of photos from January 26, 2005 labeled "First anniversary" with a girl called "Loretta". In another set dated July 27, 2005, Jeffs is shown with a girl referred to as "Merrianne". Child Protective Services officials said that they have evidence that "Merrianne" was 12 years old when she was married to Jeffs at the YFZ compound. The Vancouver Sun reported that, per a family member, "Loretta" was no older than 12 when she was married.

The investigation into alleged abuses committed by Jeffs is separate from the custody case involving the FLDS in Texas. Texas Supreme Court upheld the decision of the appellate court to overturn a lower court ruling which led to the removal of over 400 children from the FLDS compound by Texas authorities in early April. The appellate court had said that Child Protective Services did not show that the children faced an immediate danger if they were not removed.

Attorneys for CPS had asserted that DNA tests required to confirm parentage were still pending and that parents could take their children back from Texas jurisdiction if they regained custody. The appellate court justices stated that child welfare officials can take other actions to protect the children if necessary, and that the district judge in the case could still place restrictions on the parents and children to assure that they would not flee the state. Texas District Judge Barbara ruled Friday that the 38 mothers involved in the legal complaint which went to the appellate court must first sign an agreement drafted by child welfare officials and the FLDS attorneys before their children are returned to them.

Warren Jeffs was convicted in September 2007 of two counts of being an accomplice to rape related to a 2001 wedding he arranged between a 14-year old girl and her 19-year old cousin. He was sentenced to two consecutive five-year prison sentences in Utah, and faces an impending trial in Arizona on eight charges including sexual conduct with a minor, incest and conspiracy. After his convictions in Utah he was turned over to Arizona authorities to await trial there. He faces charges in Arizona of five counts of sexual conduct with a minor, four counts of incest and one count of conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor.

The FLDS group has approximately 10,000 members total, and was founded in the 1930s. It split from the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) after the LDS Church abandoned the practice of polygamy in 1890.


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  Learn more about Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and Warren Jeffs on Wikipedia.