Posted Apr 07, 2008 05:40 pm CDT
In what may be the largest child abuse investigation in Texas history, state workers have removed nearly 200 children and a number of women from a ranch run by followers of Warren Jeffs, a leader of a fringe Mormon group that advocates polygamy.
The ongoing operation, which began Thursday evening, was sparked by a complaint from a 16-year-old at the YFZ (Yearn for Zion) ranch. She reportedly told authorities that she had just had a child with her 50-year-old husband in a marriage that may have been illegal under state law because of her age, reports the Dallas Morning News. So far, however, the 16-year-old has not been located, and the man she claimed is her husband says she doesn’t exist.
“All of the removed women and children were taken to a neutral location at Fort Concho in San Angelo, where they are being questioned to determine how many will enter temporary state custody and how many may return to the retreat,” the newspaper writes. It says law enforcement officials can’t comment, under a gag order that was issued Friday, and hence information about any charges that may have been made is unknown.
As discussed in an earlier ABAJournal.com post, Jeffs was sentenced to hefty prison term after being convicted in Utah of accomplice rape last year. That case concerned another marriage of a young teen who testified that Jeffs pressured her into marrying a 19-year-old cousin when she was only 14.
Associated Press: “Polygamist-Compound Kids Saying Little”
Agence France-Presse: “US authorities hunt for children at polygamist sect”
Christian Broadcasting Network: “Polygamist Sect Raided, Hundreds Taken”
ABA Journal: “Violation or Salvation?”
Celebrity Medical Files Breached at UCLA