Monday, Nov. 03, 2008

A Ranch Raided

It began with a late March tip to Texas police: a 16-year-old girl at a Texas polygamist sect's remote ranch was complaining of both physical and mental abuse. Within a few weeks, it had become one of the largest child custody cases in U.S. history. On April 3, more than 430 children and 100 mothers were removed from the Yearning for Zion Ranch after a judge ruled them in imminent danger. The Ranch is part of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a breakaway Mormon sect. Its leader, Warren Jeffs, had been convicted in 2007 of forcing a 14-year-old girl into marriage and sexual relations. Yet the authorities struggled to prove their case, and after the Texas Supreme Court ruled the state acted improperly, all but three dozen of the youngsters were returned to their home by early June. Still, nine men from the ranch have been indicted on charges that include sexual assault of a child, bigamy and failure to report child abuse.