Police Probe Abuse at Polygamist Compound

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Authorities released court documents Tuesday on activities that took place at the polygamist compound in west Texas where a 16-year-old girl was married to a 50-year-old.

CBN spoke with one woman who escaped a polygamist communty. Click play to watch her story.

In the papers, officials said girls on the compund had been married to older men as soon as they reached puberty.  The documents also gave details on the phone calls that led police to the ranch.

The raid on the compound founded by jailed polygamist leader Warren Jeffs started with a call from the girl, who alleged abuse. Texas law forbids girls younger than 16 to marry, even with parents' permission.

By Monday, state authorities had taken legal custody of 416 children, saying they had been harmed or were in imminent danger of harm.

Some 133 women left the ranch voluntarily with the children and were being housed at a historic fort in Eldorado while authorities conduct interviews.

State troopers were holding an unknown number of men in the compound until investigators finished executing a house-to-house search of the ranch, which includes a cheese-making plant, a cement plant and several large housing units. They were searching the 80-foot white limestone temple Monday.

Children's Protective Services spokeswoman Marleigh Meisner said each child will get an advocate and an attorney, but said they would have a difficult time adapting to modern life should they be permanently separated from their families.

Tela Mange, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Safety, said the criminal investigation was still under way, and that charges would be filed if investigators determined children were abused.

The location of the girl whose call initiated the raid is still unknown. Authorities were searching for documents, family photos or even a family Bible with lists of marriages and children to determine whether the girl was married to convicted sex offender Dale Barlow.

Barlow was sentenced to jail last year after pleading no contest to conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor. He was ordered to register as a sex offender for three years while he is on probation.

Authorities are hoping to learn whether the teenager was among the church members being interviewed at Fort Concho, a 150-year-old fort built to protect frontier settlements.

The FLDS church, headed by Jeffs after his father's death in 2002, broke away from the Mormon church after the latter disavowed polygamy more than a century ago.

The group is concentrated along the Arizona-Utah line but several enclaves have been built elsewhere, including in Texas.

In 2003, the church paid $700,000 for the Eldorado property, a former exotic animal ranch, and began building the compound as they came under increased scrutiny by Arizona and Utah authorities.

Only the 80-foot-high white temple can be seen from Eldorado, a town of fewer than 2,000 surrounded by sheep ranches nearly 200 miles northwest of San Antonio.

Jeffs is jailed in Kingman, Ariz., where he awaits trial for four counts each of incest and sexual conduct with a minor stemming from two arranged marriages between teenage girls and their older male relatives.

In November, he was sentenced to two consecutive sentences of five years to life in prison in Utah for being an accomplice to the rape of a 14-year-old girl who wed her cousin in an arranged marriage in 2001.

The investigation prompted by the girl's call last week was the first in Texas involving the sect.

Source: The Associated Press

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