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Questions arise about 14-year-old bride

Questions arise about 14-year-old bride



COLORADO CITY, Ariz. — Another Colorado City teen has attempted to flee an arranged marriage.

The girl was 14 when she was allegedly married against her will on April 23. On May 15 the girl left her husband to go to her brother’s home — also in the Colorado City/Hildale area.

The girl was reportedly attempting to flee the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints lifestyle and an arranged marriage.

“She’s running away from the lifestyle, the marriage; all of it,” said the girl’s sister Flora Jessop.

Jessop lives in Arizona and wants to help her sister make her own choices about marriage and life.

“She wants to have a choice and she doesn’t have one,” said Jessop. “She wants to have a say in what her life is and the girls don’t have that.”

When Jessop spoke to her sister in May the teen spoke of wanting to leave the culture and the marriage.

“If leaving that life and that marriage is what she chooses than that’s what I want to help her do,” said Jessop.

The weekend of May 19 and 20 Jessop said the young bride went swimming at Quail Lake with her brothers. While there a friend of the teen’s picked her up and took her back to her parent’s home.

Now Jessop does not know where her sister is. When Jessop asks other family members (those who still live in the Hildale/Colorado City area) where her sister is they tell her she is on vacation with her mother. Jessop fears her sister has been taken to the FLDS community in Canada.

Under Utah law minors must have written authorization from a judge or a court commissioner to legally marry.

The written approval cannot be issued until the judge or court commissioner determines that the minor is entering into the marriage voluntarily and the marriage is in the best interest of the minor under the circumstances. The law also dictates premarital counseling for all minors unless “it is not reasonably available.”

But Jessop, who left the FLDS religion at age 16, suspects her sister’s marriage was probably like other marriages in the FLDS community — signified by a religious ceremony only.

The age of the alleged husband is unknown. Jessop said her sister has been living in the same house with the alleged husband for at least a year. She said the teen bride and her alleged husband were stepsiblings.

Jay Beswick, an advocate with the child abuse prevention organization For Kids Sake, and St. George resident Les Zitting, who is trying to start a support group for those who want to leave the FLDS church, are frustrated by governmental agencies.

Beswick and Zitting informed the Division of Child and Family Services and the Washington County Sheriff’s office of the runaway but say the agencies have not taken any action.

“I just don’t understand why they don’t have any sympathy for child brides,” said Beswick.

Beswick said the agencies are “dragging their feet” on the investigation of the most recent runaway’s situation.

Not true, according to Washington County Sheriff Kirk Smith.

There is an investigation in progress concerning the matter. Because the girl is a minor Smith said he cannot release any information about the investigation.

“When there’s an alleged crime we have to look at it,” said Smith.

Beswick and Zitting both feel there are other teenage FLDS girls who want to flee arranged marriages but have nowhere to go.

Copyright 1999 The Spectrum.