400 Children Nabbed From Polygamist Sect

400 Children Nabbed From Polygamist Sect

(CBS) - More than 400 children, mostly girls in pioneer dresses, were swept into state custody from a polygamist sect in what authorities described Monday as the largest child-welfare operation in Texas history.

The dayslong raid on the sprawling compound built by now-jailed polygamist leader Warren Jeffs was sparked by a 16-year-old girl's call to authorities that she was being abused and that girls as young as 14 and 15 were being forced into marriages with much older men.

Dressed in home-sewn, ankle-length dresses with their hair pinned up in braids, some 133 women left the Yearning for Zion Ranch of their own volition along with the children.

State troopers were holding an unknown number of men in the compound until investigators finished executing a house-to-house search of the 1,700-acre property, which includes a medical facility, numerous large housing units and an 80-foot white limestone temple that rises discordantly out of the brown scrub.

"In my opinion, this is the largest endeavor we've ever been involved in in the state of Texas," said Children's Protective Services spokesman Marleigh Meisner, who said she was also involved in the 1993 siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco.

The members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints spent their days raising numerous children, tilling small gardens and doing chores. But at least one former resident says life was not some idyllic replica of 19th-century life.

"Once you go into the compound, you don't ever leave it," said Carolyn Jessop, one of the wives of the alleged leader of the Eldorado complex. Jessop left with her eight children before the sect moved to Texas.

Jessop said the community emphasized self-sufficiency because they believed the apocalypse was near.

The women were not allowed to wear red - the color Jeffs said belonged to Jesus - and were not allowed to cut their hair. They were also kept isolated from the outside world.

They "were born into this," said Jessop, 40. "They have no concept of mainstream society, and their mothers were born into and have no concept of mainstream culture. Their grandmothers were born into it."

Meisner said each child will get an advocate and an attorney but predicted that if they end up permanently separated from their families, the sheltered children would have a tough acclimation to modern life.

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.

Still uncertain is the location of the girl whose call initiated the raid. She allegedly had a child at 15, and authorities were looking for documents, family photos or even a family Bible with lists of marriages and children to demonstrate the girl was married to Dale Barlow, 50.

Efforts to locate the girl are hampered because the women and children in custody are related to one another, share similar names or were given different names at different times, reports CBS News correspondent Hari Sreenivasan.

Under Texas law, girls younger than 16 cannot marry, even with parental approval.

The church members were being held at Fort Concho, a 150-year-old fort built to protect frontier settlements, to be interviewed about the 16-year-old girl and whether, in fact, the teenager was among them.

DPS troopers arrested one man on a charge of interfering with the duties of a public servant during the search warrant, but it was not Barlow, Mange said.

"For the most part, residents at the ranch have been cooperative. However, because of some of the diplomatic efforts in regards to the residents, the process of serving the search warrants is taking longer than usual," said DPS spokesman Tom Vinger, who declined to elaborate. "The annex is extremely large and the temple is massive."

Barlow's probation officer, Bill Loader, told The Salt Lake Tribune that he was in Arizona. Phone messages seeking comment from Loader and Barlow were not immediately returned Monday.

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.

The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 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. Several years ago it paid $700,000 for the Eldorado property, a former exotic animal ranch, and began building the compound as authorities in Arizona and Utah began increasingly scrutinizing the group.

On Monday, a woman who had once been in a similar sect told The Early Show that women are treated like "breeding machines" in the sects.

"(Polygamy is) a life where, as a female, you really don't think for yourself, you're basically told what to do. You really are just a breeding machine to further the agenda of the male patriarchy," said Laurie Allen to anchor Julie Chen. "This is what I experienced."

The compound sits down a narrow paved road and behind a hill that shields it almost entirely from view in Eldorado, a town of fewer than 2,000 surrounded by sheep ranches nearly 200 miles northwest of San Antonio. Only the 80-foot-high white temple can be seen on the horizon.

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.

Subscribe to Trend in Google News! Subscribe
Russian peacekeepers - guarantors of peace in Karabakh - President Putin
Russian peacekeepers - guarantors of peace in Karabakh - President Putin
Azerbaijani Prosecutor's Office opens criminal case on civilian's mine accident in Aghdam
Azerbaijani Prosecutor's Office opens criminal case on civilian's mine accident in Aghdam
Russia calls for prompt launch of delimitation process of Armenian-Azerbaijani border - MFA
Russia calls for prompt launch of delimitation process of Armenian-Azerbaijani border - MFA
Loading Bars
Latest
Iran announces amount of currency sold at NIMA exchange rate
Kazakh gas producing company opens tender to attract designing services
Iran allocates financial aid to support maritime industries
President Ilham Aliyev receives credentials of newly appointed Romanian ambassador (PHOTO)
President Ilham Aliyev receives newly appointed ambassador of Kyrgyz Republic (PHOTO)
Baku Stock Exchange talks readiness to issue "Green Bonds" for Azerbaijan's liberated lands
Israel 2021-22 budget clears parliament's finance committee
Kazakh banks increase lending value m-o-m
Iran builds prefabricated homes in Kish Island
Azerbaijan's Bravo auctions its first bonds via Baku Stock Exchange (PHOTO)
Azerbaijan completes repairs of houses in Jojug Marjanli damaged by Armenia’s shelling (PHOTO)
Azerbaijani oil prices decline
Georgia releases data on COVID-19 cases for October 28
Iran's Astara port , Russia's Astrakhan port declared sister ports
Kazakhstan reports increase in all types of deposits
Kazakhstan to consider construction of reservoirs in Kyzylorda region
Kazakhstan doesn’t plan to suspend scheduled flights – ministry
Iran reactivates fuel stations after cyberattack
Azerbaijan betters positions in revised Global Firepower 2021 rating
Iranian currency rates for October 28
Booster jab is important for long-term protection against COVID-19 - Azerbaijani doctor
National Iranian Oil Company discloses volume of gas to be extracted in country
SOCAR Ukraine sees 11% increase in fuel sales
Iran and Turkmenistan sign cooperation document
Iran's export to Kazakhstan increases
Azerbaijani boxers start performance in World Cup in Belgrade with victory
Azerbaijan repatriates 38 children from Iraqi orphanages – MFA
Turkey unveils number of ships docking at Antalya port
Iran's Energy Exchange announces products to be on sale on October 30
Brent falls to two-week low after inventory shock
Vienna talks to be resumed in late Nov.: Ulyanov
Georgia increases re-exports of vehicles
Coronavirus caseload in Kazakhstan climbs to 934,387
Iran prepares to boost maritime transit
Biden likely to head to COP26 without a final U.S. climate deal
6 companies to recall nearly 330,000 vehicles over faulty parts in South Korea
India rejects net zero carbon emissions target, says pathway more important
Australia eases COVID-19 travel advisory ahead of border reopening
Barcelona sack coach Koeman after loss to Rayo Vallecano
US, Turkey hold new talks to 'resolve F-35 dispute'
EU top court fines Poland 1 mln euros per day amid legal row
Turkey reports 26,896 daily COVID-19 cases
US tells Iran ‘window will not remain open forever’ to revive nuclear deal
Portugal's parliament rejects budget, snap election looms in 2022
Better future awaits Karabakh Armenians as citizens of Azerbaijan after opening of Fuzuli Int'l Airport - Russian expert
Chronicles of Victory: President Ilham Aliyev interviewed by Russian Interfax agency on October 28, 2020 (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Chronicles of Victory: October 28, 2020
Blinken says he ordered reviews of State Dept's evacuation efforts out of Afghanistan
Moderna COVID shot could be used in U.S. children, teens within weeks
London launches Europe's biggest scheme to drive polluting vehicles off roads
14th batch of Sputnik V vaccines delivered to Iran Embassy in Moscow
GD leaders address supporters, promise Georgia's development
Opening of Fuzuli Int'l Airport landmark event for Azerbaijan and dev't of region- Russian expert
Japanese Noritsuisu Co. Ltd preparing to launch new project in Uzbekistan
Kazakhstan’s mining company opens tender on spare parts for truck
Uzbekistan to build its first digital control system substation
Turkey unveils its economy sectors attracting foreign investors
Azerbaijan reveals TOP-10 banks in terms of income for 3Q2021
Azerbaijan’s TOP-10 banks in expenditures terms for 3Q2021 revealed
TBC Bank to financially support Georgian farmers
Kazakhstan draws up national project for energy complex dev’t by 2025
Kazakhstan discloses deterioration degree of local power grids
Cairo-Moscow flight returns to airport due to suspicious message in cabin
Norwegian Air to lease 13 Boeing planes
McDonald's sales soar on higher prices, newer menu items
Iran supports development of constructive relations with Azerbaijan - FM
Iran’s PMO declares volume of essential products available in ports
TOP-10 Azerbaijani banks in terms of net profit for 3Q2021
Azerbaijan inks new deals with several states on investment in its Alat FEZ - ministry
Kazakhstan increases mobile internet speed in September
IMIDRO reveals data on iron ore concentrate production in Iran
Renaissance Capital forecasts inflation in Georgia to slow down
Azerbaijan talks possible vaccination of adolescents prone to catching COVID-19
Kazakhstan considering introducing carbon tax
India, Kyrgyzstan hold first strategic dialogue, discuss Afghanistan
Uzbekistan Railways modernizing railway carriages to increase passenger traffic
Japanese TEPCO plans to continue investment in Georgia's energy sector
Iran’s Bahar Azadi gold coin price rebounds
Iran`s TEDPIX on the rise after week of decline
Teva Pharm Q3 profit misses estimates, to sell $4 bln in bonds
OPEC ready to strengthen co-op with Turkmenistan
Kazakh Energy Ministry working on building nuclear power plant
Uzbek Ministry of Finance to cancel fees for purchase of used cars in 2022
Indian Railways changes policy, PSUs to now compete in open market for tenders
Turkey's leather exports to Iran up in value for 9M2021
Azerbaijan confirms 2,300 more COVID-19 cases, 1,248 recoveries
Azerbaijan shares data on number of vaccinated citizens
Georgia and Spain eye to launch direct flights between capitals
Azerbaijan, WB ink new loan agreement
Iron ore concentrate production by giant Iranian companies up
Turkmenistan starts experimental growth of papaya in Mary region
IMF revising India's growth forecast is 'gross under estimation': N K Singh
Turkish KOSGEB talks interest in implementing projects in Azerbaijan's Karabakh
Decarbonization of economy to transform Kazakhstan’s fuel and energy complex – minister
Kazakhstan's trade indicators with EAEU member states for 8M2021 unveiled
Kazakhstan records decrease in renewable energy tariffs
Bank Keshavarzi Iran provides loans for construction of greenhouses
State Grain Fund of Azerbaijan transferred to jurisdiction of State Reserves Agency
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev congratulates President of Czech Republic
Iran resumes rice imports
All news