Officials in San Angelo plan to begin taking DNA samples Monday from more than 400 children taken from the polygamous sect's ranch in Eldorado.
The testing is needed, state officials said, to establish who the children's parents are and if any child abuse has taken place. Judge Barbara Walther ordered the testing.
The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints encourages underage marriages and births, prosecutors argued. That subjects children to sexual abuse or the imminent risk of abuse, the prosecutors said.
A man who identified himself as "Rulan" said FLDS members are reconsidering whether girls under 18 should have sex with adult men, The Associated Press reported. -- Lance Murray
A judge in San Angelo is trying to sort out the custody arrangements for hundreds of young children taken from a polygamist sect, with nearly four dozen lawyers seeking to represent the children in attendance at a hearing held Monday.
State District Judge Barbara Walther, however, expected that another hearing on Thursday will be a marathon session, when the state will plea for permanent custody of the 416 children taken early this month (right) from the Eldorado ranch of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Meanwhile, Gov. Rick Perry has received a letter written on behalf of mothers whose children were removed from the sect's ranch after an abuse allegation. The one-page letter from three FLDS members says the mothers want the governor to examine the conditions in which the removed children have been placed.
Read more in this report from Jennifer Dobner of The Associated Press.
Also read Star-Telegram Staff Writer Anna Tinsley's profile of Judge Walther, who is described as having equal measures of compassion and toughness.
And if you can't get enough of the events in West Texas, check out the blog Texas Polygamy, which carries diverse opinions on the subject. The comments by the contributors "uncaduff" and "iitmoc" write in favor of FLDS.
Law enforcement officers have surrounded the YFZ Ranch near Eldorado, (left) the little city operated by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints near Eldorado.
Information was sketchy, but officials are reportedly interviewing members of the polygamist group about a sexual assault case.
Staff Writers Bill Hanna and Jack Douglas Jr. report that the surveillance of the ranch began Thursday afternoon and continued throughout the night. Around midnight, Child Protective Services investigators entered the compound, located about 45 miles south of San Angelo, and are continuing to question members of the sect.
Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman Tom Vinger described the sect followers as "very cooperative" and that the group is "providing all of the people we need to talk to" about the complaint.
The Texas Rangers also are involved, Vinger said.
Crime Time reported Feb. 27 that the sect's leader, Warren Jeffs, (right) pleaded not guilty in Kingman, Ariz., to sex charges stemming from the arranged marriages of two teenage girls to older men.
The Eldorado Success, a weekly newspaper, continues to closely follow developments at the YFZ. Editor Randy Mankin said one of the members of the sect filed a complaint that she was sexually assaulted and that authorities appear to be taking it "very seriously."
Polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs pleaded not guilty Wednesday in Kingman, Ariz., to sex charges stemming from the arranged marriages of two teenage girls to older men.
Jeffs, seen in the file photo at right from The Associated Press, is the leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He was convicted in Utah last year of rape as an accomplice in the arranged marriage of a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin.
But Jeffs also has made international headlines in recent years when his church developed its secretive 1,691-acre YFZ Ranch, complete with a massive temple (below), near Eldorado in West Texas.