Tuesday, April 8, 2008

200 Women, Children rescued from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ

April 6, 2008 11:12 a.m. EST

Eldorado, TX (AHN)-- Some 200 women and children have been evacuated from the West Texas retreat owned by polygamist leader Warren Jeffs since Friday, but local authorities are still on the lookout for other members,including the 16-year-old girl whose abuse complaint triggered the massive operations.

Allison Palmer, assistant district attorney for the 51st Judicial District, said state troopers, child protection services and emergency personnel came in prepared for the worst case scenario since searching the temple presented a possible point of contention with the sect members, who don't allow nonbelievers inside.

Fortunately the days-long effort ended with neither injuries or violence. Authorities and Child Protective Service workers have begun interviewing the 46 young women and 137 children who have been removed from the complex so far. CPS official Marleigh Meisner said 18 of the children have been placed in state care because they either had been abused or were in imminent danger of abuse.

"We're really, really trying to be aware that their whole world has changed. We're trying to be sensitive to the fact that we've taken them from their surroundings," Meisner told the Houston Chronicle in an interview.

Also on Saturday, a San Angelo-based prosecutor said a man named in a Texas search and arrest warrant was being questioned by police in another state.

The warrant was issued after authorities received reports that the man had married the now 16-year-old girl who tipped the CPS off on the plight of women living inside the YFZ ranch. The girl is said to have an 8-month-old baby.

On Friday, police and the CPS served warrants at the 1,700-acre property located 160 miles northwest of San Antonio, following the girl's complaint.

The ranch, named Yearning For Zion, houses members of the 10,000-strong Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It has been led by 52-year-old Warren Jeffs since 2002. The group is one of several that broke away after the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints renounced polygamy in 1890.

Jeffs is currently imprisoned in Kingman, Arizona, awaiting trial on charges of being an accomplice to four counts of incest and sexual conduct with a minor.

He was sentenced on similar charges in November to two consecutive sentences of five years to life in prison in Utah.

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