THE six-year-old son of polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs did not suffer physical or sexual abuse while living with his mother at the group’s Texas ranch, a child welfare case worker testified yesterday.
Child Protective Services case worker Joni Manske testified during one of several hearings in which more than 400 individual cases are being considered. The custody cases got under way yesterday in all five Tom Green County courtrooms, with parents learning what they must do to regain custody of the children. The hearings are expected to last three weeks. Texas authorities have 463 children in foster care, taken because of allegations that members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints were forcing underage girls into marriage and sex at the sect’s compound.
Members of the renegade Mormon sect, which teaches that polygamy brings glorification in heaven, have denied any abuse and said they are being persecuted for their religious beliefs.
The attorney for Sharon Barlow, the boy’s mother, objected to the state plan for her to get the boy back, saying it wasn’t clear enough. Barlow, 34, must take parenting classes, find a safe living environment and undergo a psychological evaluation, according to the plan.
“This plan is so vague and so broad that my client has no idea what she can do now,” said attorney Donna Guion. Judge Barbara Walther agreed and asked Guion to provide ideas on how that might be done.
The boy is one of 10 in custody believed to be the children of Jeffs, the sect’s jailed leader and prophet. Jeffs was convicted in Utah of being an accomplice to rape in the marriage of a 14-year-old to a 19-year-old.
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