Alleged underage bride to leave foster care

SAN ANGELO, TX Texas District Judge Barbara Walther agreed to allow the 14-year-old girl -- the only child from the Yearning For Zion Ranch in foster care -- to move in with the relative next week. Although some of the records in the case are sealed, the relative does not live at the ranch or in nearby San Angelo, said Child Protective Services spokesman Patrick Crimmins.

"CPS is comfortable with the placement, and the judge obviously was comfortable with it because she approved it," he said.

The agency will continue to oversee her case and monitor visits with her mother until a Sept. 9 hearing, where the girl could be permanently placed with the relative.

The girl, allegedly married to Jeffs shortly after her 12th birthday, was placed back in foster care last August.

She had been among the 439 children returned to their parents in June after the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the state's decision to sweep all the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints children into foster care was overly broad.

Walther, however, ordered the girl back into foster care after her mother, Barbara Jessop, refused to guarantee the girl's safety during a tense court hearing.

Jessop, invoking her Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination, refused to answer about 50 questions, including what constituted abuse, the names of her children, her relationship with their father and whether a parent had an obligation to protect her children.

At the time, Walther said there was "uncontroverted evidence" of the girl's underage marriage.

The girl was seen kissing Jeffs in photos seized from the ranch. In one of Jeffs' writings obtained by The Associated Press, he said the girl was lucky to have a husband at her age.

For years, Jeffs only acknowledged whether a girl had reached puberty, not her legal age, but since the April 2008 raid that put all the children in foster care for two months, the FLDS has said it will not sanction underage marriages.

Jeffs, convicted in Utah as an accomplice to rape and awaiting trial on similar charges in Arizona, also faces charges of sexual assault of a child and bigamy in Texas. Eleven other FLDS men have been indicted in Texas on charges ranging from failure to report child abuse to sexual assault.

The FLDS, which believes polygamy brings glorification in heaven, is a breakaway sect of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Mormon church renounced polygamy more than a century ago.

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