Hundreds Taken from Polygamist Compound

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The search continued Monday at a Mormon sect compound for any more children or evidence of abuse at the 1,700-acre, west Texas ranch.

Authorities have taken 220 women and children away from the compound and 18 children are now legally in state custody.

"Those are the ones that we believe have been abused, or they are in imminent risk of harm, imminent risk of being abused, and that it would not be safe those children to remain in the compound for another day," said Marleigh Meisner with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

But officials are still trying to locate the 16-year-old girl who filed a complaint that she was forced to marry a man more than three times her age and had a baby when she was just 15.

Investigators are combing through records, computers, and photographs that could possibly link the teen to her alleged 50-year-old husband. In Texas, it's illegal for girls younger than 16 to marry, even with parental consent.

"There is a lot of mind control here. And just layers and layers of things that the authorities have to drill through to get at the truth of what's going on with the girls," said former church member Carolyn Jessop.

The YFZ Ranch, which stands for "Yearning for Zion," was built by polygamist Warren Jeffs, who's already serving a prison sentence in Utah, and is awaiting trial in Nevada for incest and sexual conduct with a minor.

"He is their God. He's told these people: I am Jesus Christ," said former church member Flora Jeffs.

Jeffs' followers are part of a breakaway fundamentalist sect of the Mormon church that splintered when the church banned polygamy more than a century ago.

Ahead of the raid, authorities had braced themselves for the worst, but ultimately, sect leaders allowed them onto the compound.

So far, no arrests or charges have been filed. Meanwhile, caseworkers continue to question the women and children to determine if any more will enter temporary state custody and how many may return to the retreat.

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CBN News
John Jessup

John Jessup

CBN News Washington Correspondent

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