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Thursday, May 22, 2008

FLDS shun Texas officials twice at ranch

The polygamous sect was told of an allegation that five children are there, including a boy with Down syndrome


Texas child welfare officials returned to a polygamous sect's ranch twice Wednesday because they had "new information" that children were there but were not allowed on the property. Two Child Protective Service (CPS) workers, accompanied by a Schleicher County Sheriff's deputy, first asked to be let on the YFZ Ranch shortly before noon Wednesday.

The workers told Guy Jessop, who met them at the gate, they were "looking for more children" but he refused to let them enter without a search warrant.

News of the visit reached the Tom Green County Courthouse, where the third day of status hearings for about 450 FLDS children was under way. Several FLDS spokesmen - and media - made a mad dash to the ranch, whose residents are members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

CPS officials spoke with FLDS member Willie Jessop after being rebuffed and were told he would allow them on the ranch, according to spokeswoman Marleigh Meisner.

Investigators returned to the ranch at about 6 p.m. but Willie Jessop met them at the gate and turned them away, she said.

Willie Jessop said ranch residents would allow authorities to investigate any legitimate claims of abuse. "If they have an honest complaint, we'll be honest, but we were lied to," he said, noting that authorities have never produced the teenage girl whose allegations of abuse led the state to remove all children from the ranch in April.

Jessop said he does not know whether there are children at the 1,700-acre property, which includes 19 separate residential buildings. If there are, they would have arrived with parents who came to comfort relatives in the wake of the April raid, he said.
Meisner said she did not know what action CPS might pursue next in its effort to search the ranch. Meisner would not comment on the new information the agency has received. She said CPS, which does not conduct criminal investigations, never uses search warrants.

"These attempts are part of our ongoing investigation," she said.

A search warrant was used when Texas Rangers and CPS workers raided the ranch in April. Rod Parker, a sect spokesman, said CPS officials told Willie Jessop that an informant claimed there are five children at the ranch, including a boy who has Down syndrome.

A 5-year-old boy with Down syndrome was among the children previously taken from the ranch, though it is not clear if CPS officials are looking for a different boy with that same condition.

Meisner would not confirm any information about children CPS believes may be at the ranch or say when the agency received the information. The timing of the account was unclear and it could be weeks old, Parker said.

This marks the first time investigators have returned to the ranch since completing a raid and weeklong search that began April 3. CPS said it found evidence of a pattern of abuse - such as sex with underage girls - that justified removal of all the sect's children.


Anonymous said...

Just as Appeals Court says that the authorities had no right to remove the children taken in the original raid.

While I don't agree with polygamy, I do agree with the Constitution and it disgusts me how the State of Texas is trampling these peoples rights.

I hope this results in criminal prosecution of the law enforcement higher-ups involved, as well as huge civil monetary awards to the families involved.

Shame on Texas - become part of AMERICA won't you?

Anonymous said...

I'm disgusted by those who approve of our transition to a police state because they disagree with this group's beliefs. I don't like their lifestyle, but there's a lot of people's lifestyles I believe are not healthy. These guys cooperated, got burned, and have every right to turn away CPS officials from confusing the situation worse. Sounds like there may be visiting relatives there. Good on the appeals court for recognizing that US citizens are entitles to due process, a day in court etc., before jerking all children of an entire community willy nilly. Investigate, gather evidence, and prosecute those who've broken the law, just like it always (should) works.