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Wife of Former Jeffs' Caretaker Steps Up, Seeks Child Support

Wife of Former Jeffs' Caretaker Steps Up, Seeks Child Support

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A former key ally of polygamous-sect leader Warren Jeffs may be closer to finding his family but harmony appears unlikely.

Wendell Musser has sued Jeffs to learn the whereabouts of his wife and son. Now his wife, Vivian Barlow, has emerged, disclosing the county where they live and seeking sole custody of Levi, 2.

Barlow said Musser should have only supervised visits with Levi, according to documents filed Friday in 5th District Court in southern Utah's Washington County.

Raised in Jeffs' Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on the Utah-Arizona border, Musser and Barlow were married in a religious ceremony in 2005.

Musser claims Jeffs forced him out of the church and cut him off from his family last summer after a drunken-driving arrest in Colorado.

At that time, Musser said he was a caretaker for Jeffs' many wives in a string of Colorado homes while the church leader was on the run from criminal charges in Arizona and Utah.

Musser, 22, filed a lawsuit against Jeffs in May seeking access to his family. A judge ordered Jeffs to cooperate, but he repeatedly refused to answer questions during an interview with attorneys July 27.

Barlow was not named in the lawsuit but wants to intervene.

"One would have to assume Vivian Barlow might have some rights that are being affected by this action," the court filing states.

She claims Musser is unfit for custody of Levi or unsupervised visits, but she wants $250 in monthly child support. She says she lives in Mohave County, Ariz., where many FLDS church members live.

Barlow's attorney, Reed Braithwaite, declined to comment on the court filing.

"You can say that I do not represent Warren Jeffs," he said. "And if Wendell ever wants visitation with Levi, he can contact me. I'd be more than happy to facilitate that."

Musser's attorney, Roger Hoole of Salt Lake City, said he was not surprised by the filing. He said Braithwaite, of St. George, has ties to the FLDS and has represented church members in other lawsuits for many years.

"Warren Jeffs is under pressure and his followers will do anything in an effort to take the focus off of him," Hoole said.

Hoole said he'll oppose Barlow's effort to intervene in the Jeffs case. Barlow is named in May 25 filing that seeks to establish Musser's paternity and should be represented there, he said.

The suggestion that Musser is an unfit parent "doesn't sound like words that would come from Vivian if she wasn't under pressure," Hoole said.

Jeffs, 51, has been the powerful head of the FLDS church since 2002. He is said to rule with an iron fist, even from the Washington County jail, where he's awaiting a September trial on felony charges of rape as an accomplice in the spiritual marriage of a 14-year-old girl to a 19-year-old cousin.

Musser said he and his wife had a brief reunion in late May, arranged by Musser's father in an FLDS-owned business in Hildale, Utah, but Barlow rejected him and wouldn't allow him to hold Levi.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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