Plural wife gets custody of 8 children
A plural wife was granted full custody of her eight children Tuesday by a 3rd District Court domestic relations commissioner, who also granted the children's father visitation rights.

"I think we had a really good result," said Rod Parker, who represents 67-year-old Merril Jessop of Colorado City, Ariz.

Parker also represents the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a church that openly practices polygamy in the twin border towns of Colorado City and Hildale, Utah.

"What's good about this stipulation is that Merril and his children were given the same rights as any other family experiencing separation."

Carolyn Jessop, 35, left her Colorado City home with the children in April.

A message left for Doug White, Carolyn's attorney, was not returned by press time late Tuesday.

The children, five boys and three girls, range in age from almost 2 to 15 years.

Among the allegations Parker said his client faced were concerns the girls would later be forced to marry older, polygamous men.

The commissioner ordered therapy and appointed a guardian ad litum to represent the children and their interests in the case, Parker said.

Most of those who reside in Colorado City and Hildale are members of the FLDS church. Polygamy is considered a sacred covenant within the FLDS faith, and children are taught early that it is the only way to salvation.
Originally published Wednesday, June 25, 2003