Tuesday, May 6, 2008

One Man in Polygamy Sect Has 21 Wives

In the secretive, illegal world of American polygamy, life has been good to 67-year-old Wendell Loy Nielsen of Eldorado, Texas.
By his own account, Nielsen has 21 wives -- and 36 children.
His oldest wife is 13 years older than he is, and his youngest wife is 43 years younger -- she's just 24.
His oldest child is 21 years old, and his youngest is a 6-month-old baby.
That's one of the longer, single-family genealogies uncovered in a CNN review of the "Bishop's List" -- a series of documents listing the age, marital status, children and address of the members of the Yearning for Zion polygamist ranch in Eldorado, Texas.
The ranch is owned by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a Mormon offshoot that practices polygamy.
The Bishop's List was found among nearly 1,000 boxes of paperwork taken from the ranch by investigators who are considering child-abuse charges against some of the sect members. Watch how the list details convoluted family trees »
Investigators don't believe there is a "bishop" on the ranch. Instead, they believe sect members take orders from the man they call their "prophet"-- convicted polygamist Warren Jeffs. Jeffs is in prison for forcing a 14-year-old girl to marry her 19-year-old cousin.
Jeffs was convicted last year in Utah on two counts of being an accomplice to rape, charges related to the marriage. Jeffs also faces trial in Arizona on charges of sexual conduct with a minor, incest and conspiracy.
Investigators say Jeffs still exerts control from prison through one of the men on the ranch, Merle Jessop. One of Jessop's wives is a former sect member, Carolyn Jessop, who left a polygamist compound and later wrote a book about her experience, called "Escape." AC 360° Blog: Broken bones, broken spirits?
Last week, attorneys for the sect argued against a court review of the documents, claiming the documents should remain private under First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and association.
Judge Barbara Walther disagreed, saying the documents must be examined to try to find possible medical records of the sect children.
The Bishop's List also reveals other interesting details.
Most of the documents list the members' address as "R 17" -- shorthand for the Yearning for Zion Ranch.
But on at least one family's document -- the Jacob H. Johnson family -- the address for Jacob's 22-year-old wife and infant daughter is listed as a "house of hiding."
Investigators have not revealed where or what kind of house that might be. Also, some sect members have refused to tell investigators -- or said they don't know -- how old they are.
Yet the documents in the Bishop's List seem to suggest that sect members do know their ages, and the ages of their children. Again, in the Johnson family record, one wife is listed as being "almost 28" while another is listed as being "almost 22."
The ages of the wives and their children are critical to investigators, who believe that underage girls were routinely married and forced to have sex with older men.
No formal criminal charges have been filed in the case. The next court hearing regarding the state's custody of 463 sect children is set for later this month.
The sheer number of children has created confusion between state officials and FLDS families and their attorneys, many of whom say their clients don't know where their children have been placed.
Details Emerge!
Documents seized during the April raid on a polygamist compound in Eldorado, Texas, shed some light on the family trees of the people who live there. One 67-year-old man, for example, has 21 wives ranging in age from 24 to 80 and 36 children. Above is the temple at the compound.
Authorities raided the property, called the Yearning for Zion ranch, on April 3 after receiving a complaint that a teenage girl was being abused there. They removed 463 children, as well as nearly 1,000 boxes of paperwork.
The sect is led by Warren Jeffs, who was convicted in Utah as an accomplice to the rape of a 14-year-old girl who wed her cousin in an arranged marriage. He is awaiting trial in Arizona on charges stemming from other arranged marriages. Officials have said Jeff controls the compound through a member named Merle Jessop.
A judge ruled April 18 that children removed from the compound should remain in state custody until the case is resolved. She also ordered genetic testing for compound residents. Child welfare workers had said they were having trouble sorting out family relationships, in part because sect members gave evasive answers to their questions.
The children were moved to foster-care facilities across Texas. Mothers who had previously been allowed to stay with their children age 4 and younger were told they must leave. A sect member named Ruth breaks down April 24 as she talks about being kept from her children.
Of the 53 teenage girls taken from the sect compound, 31 are either pregnant or already have children, state officials said in April. Sect officials maintained some of the teenagers being counted as minors are actually 18.
Speaking of Children...
Breast-Fed Children Smarter, Study Finds
A new study provides some of the best evidence to date that breast-feeding can make children smarter, an international team of researchers said on Monday.
Children whose mothers breast-fed them longer and did not mix in baby formula scored higher on intelligence tests, the researchers in Canada and Belarus reported.
About half the 14,000 babies were randomly assigned to a group in which prolonged and exclusive breast-feeding by the mother was encouraged at Belarussian hospitals and clinics. The mothers of the other babies received no special encouragement.
Those in the breast-feeding encouragement group were, on average, breast-fed longer than the others and were less likely to have been given formula in a bottle.
At 3 months, 73 percent of the babies in the breast-feeding encouragement group were breast-fed, compared to 60 percent of the other group. At 6 months, it was 50 percent versus 36 percent.

No comments: