St. George, Utah — A Utah judge has awarded an exiled member of Warren Jeffs' polygamous sect sole custody of children who were being raised by his wives who remain members of the religion.
Judge James Shumate granted Lorin Holm custody because it is more likely that Holm will allow his wives to visit the children, and less likely that the wives would have allowed Holm into their residence if they had custody, the Spectrum of St. George reported Thursday.
During the two-day trial, one of Holm's wives, Lynda Peine, testified that she still follows Jeffs and the "Laws of God." During testimony from a woman who told the court about being sexually assaulted by Jeffs when she was 14, Peine put her fingers in her ears.
Jeffs is serving a life prison sentence for sexually assaulting underage girls he considered brides.
Peine is one of Lorin Holm's two wives who remain members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on the Utah-Arizona border. They don't want Holm to be allowed near the children because they consider him to be a bad influence since he was exiled from the sect.
Holm sued to get sole custody of the children in 2011 after he was kicked out of the sect earlier that year for being deemed unfaithful. He had three wives and more than a dozen children. Today, he lives with his first wife, who also left the church.
Holm argues that his children could be sexually abused, forced into child labor or kicked out of the church while being raised by Lynda Peine and Patricia Peine.
Many of the estimated 7,500 people living in Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah, are still followers of Jeffs, who followers believe is a prophet.
Jeffs' Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is a radical offshoot of mainstream Mormonism whose members believe polygamy brings exaltation in heaven.
The practice of polygamy is a legacy of the early teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but the mainstream church and its 15 million members worldwide abandoned polygamy in 1890 and strictly prohibit it today.
Rodney Parker, Peine's attorney, said he didn't know if the custody case would be appealed.