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It took me longer to track down the story than it did to copy it (including the preheadline which seems geared to turn this into a partisan story). I do not live in a perfect democracy, but I also don't live in a police state, but in an imperfect and complex society - just like everybody else here. The FLDS moved to El Dorado for reasons. Some of these reasons are now working against them. This could still go a bunch of different ways.

And, Post reports, she's listed as Obama delegate
Roommate stunned by claims Colo. woman's bogus call triggered FLDS raid
The Salt Lake Tribune
Article Last Updated: 04/20/2008 10:55:53 AM MDT

8:40 AM- By Kirk Mitchell
The Denver Post
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- A 33-year-old Colorado Springs woman who may have sparked a massive child-protection raid at a polygamist compound in Texas kept a steady job and gave no hint of her activities to those closest to her.
"She is the last person I would expect to do something like this," said a woman in her mid-20s who described herself as the roommate of Rozita Swinton. Speaking at the door of their apartment, the roommate described Swinton as a steady, soft-hearted person.
But growing evidence indicates Swinton repeatedly made calls to authorities in multiple jurisdictions, setting off large emergency responses that sometimes involved dozens of police officers.
The Texas Ranger Division of the Texas Department of Public Safety confirmed Friday that Swinton was a person of interest in calls placed to a crisis hotline by someone claiming to be Sarah, a 16-year-old girl who had been sexually abused and beaten by a 50-year-old polygamous husband.
The reports in late March led to a raid that began April 3 at the Yearning For Zion Ranch in Eldorado, Texas, in which 416 children were taken into custody.
The roommate said Saturday that she was stunned to learn Swinton may have been involved. The two have been longtime friends.

Swinton, who often did kind deeds for many different people, allowed her to move in April 4, said the roommate, who declined to give her name because she said her boss had warned her not to speak to the media.
Swinton has never married and has no children. She works for a Denver insurance company, the roommate said.
Swinton is also listed on the El Paso County Democratic Party's website as her neighborhood precinct's delegate to the state Democratic convention in May, supporting Sen. Barack Obama.
The roommate said they never spoke about the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints group, and she did not know anything about false distress calls.
The last time she saw Swinton was Wednesday after police arrived at the apartment. Colorado Springs police, accompanied by Texas Rangers, arrested Swinton in a local case, and Texas officials searched the home.
The Texas Rangers found items of interest during the search and the investigation is continuing.
In June 2005, Castle Rock police arrested Swinton after she posed as the teen mother of a newborn and told an adoption agency and police she was considering suicide and leaving the baby at a fire station, Castle Rock police Sgt. Scott Claton said.
Authorities charged her with filing a false police report. She is currently serving a one-year deferred sentence in that case.
In February, dozens of Colorado Springs police searched for a girl claiming to be locked in a basement. Again, it turned out to be Swinton.
Flora Jessop, a former polygamist-sect member who now runs a crisis center, says Swinton repeatedly called her posing as a young abused girl and could be the same person whose complaints led to the April 3 raid on the Texas ranch.
Jessop said she first received a call March 30 from a woman, since identified as Swinton, claiming to be an abuse victim named Sarah.
But the hotline call that led to the raid wasn't publicized until after Jessop spoke with Sarah, leaving Jessop to speculate that she could have been the same person making the calls.
"It does kind of indicate (Swinton) made those calls," Jessop said. "There was no press on it at the time."
Jessop, who operates a rescue mission for teenage girls trying to escape the sect, said she recorded between 30 and 40 hours of phone conversations with Swinton, who alternately claimed to be Sarah; Sarah's twin sister Laura; and Laura's friend.
Swinton would call Jessop after 8:30 p.m. and speak in a subdued voice because she said that is when others in the compound were sleeping.
"She was very convincing," Jessop said. "She very much thought this out."
The person obviously had studied the FLDS culture, she said.
Jessop became suspicious and contacted the Texas Rangers after the same person, who sounded like a frightened young girl, called saying she was Sarah's sister and lived in Colorado City.
Jessop sent recordings to the Texas Rangers, who traced the calls to Swinton's phone.

The Salt Lake Tribune has an entire section of its website devoted to polygamy. The links under the "Utah news" section read: Politics/Polygamy/Education/Columns/Photos
Itty bitty drib this morning. It's not clear to me how the DNA evidence could be used to build abuse cases under the circumstances. In rape cases, you have to collect DNA evidence immediately, before the victim washes. Unless some kid was fresh from being raped when taken and happened to have a rape kit run on her (which I suppose might be the source of complaints about traumatizing the kids when they were taken), how could the DNA be used for the feared purpose?


Texas officials seek DNA samples of polygamist sect members

Last Update: 5:51 am

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The temple of the Texas polygamist sect is seen in El Dorado, Texas. (CNN) ELDORADO, Texas (AP) - Now what will they do with them?

Texas authorities today could begin taking DNA samples from adult members of a polygamist sect in Texas. The samples are meant to be used for sorting out the complex web of family ties and reunite children with their parents.

But one of the attorneys for the group fears they could also be used to prosecute adult church members for abuse. Rod Parker of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints wonders whether authorities secretly intend to use the DNA to build criminal cases.

But a spokesman for Texas Child Protective Services denies that's the objective.

Authorities believe the sect forces underage girls into marriages with older men.

No charges have been filed.

©2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

This is a long time to go without any charges being filed, but between the innate complexity of intrafamilial child abuse and endangerment, the unholy mess of American child welfare laws (which incorporate so many conflicting values, prejudices, and assumptions that they could hardly be worse if a committee drafted something specifically intended to minimize efficiency and maximize emotional damage; this has been true since the inception of child welfare law in the 19th century), and the Pavlovian public emotional reaction to the accusation of breaking the child/adult sex taboo, this could go on a lot longer. I predict that attention will focus more and more on the remote possibility of sexual abuse of children under twelve and less and less on the real problem, which the FLDS shares with the surrounding community, of teen-age minors being deprived of the tools to control their own sexuality and make good, or any real, choices.
And the dribs come drabbing into town:
Polygamist Sect Children Arrive In San Antonio
Reported by: Leila Walsh
Email: [email protected]
Last Update: 6:10 am

Bus Arrives in San Antonio
Fifteen of the children were brought to San Antonio. The charter bus they were riding on was escorted by DPS troopers. (News 4)
Related Links
How to Become A Foster Parent
A bus full of children from the polygamist sect ranch in West Texas arrived in San Antonio Tuesday afternoon.

One hundred children left the San Angelo Coliseum earlier in the day after a Texas judge signed an order allowing them to be moved.

Fifteen of the children were brought to San Antonio. The charter bus they were riding on was escorted by DPS troopers. The bus arrived in San Antonio shortly after 5 p.m., and the children were taken to a local shelter.

All fifteen of the children are girls between the ages of 6 and 15 years of age. News 4 was told where the girls were taken, but Child Protective Services has asked us not to identify the name of the shelter because they believe the children were victims of abuse.

Eventually children from the ranch could be placed in as many as 5 shelters here.
Adults and children, members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, gather beneath a covered porch at one of the structures at their temporary housing, Fort Concho National Historic Landmark, in San Angelo, Texas. (Tony Gutierrez, Associated Press) By MICHELLE ROBERTS, Associated Press Writer

SAN ANGELO, Texas (AP) -- Child welfare officials on Tuesday started moving 437 children of a polygamous sect to temporary foster care facilities around Texas.

At the same time, authorities were taking DNA samples from sect members to sort out the children's ties to parents in the close-knit sect.

Lawyers inside the San Angelo Coliseum where the children had been housed for more than two weeks said Children's Protective Services representatives set up tight security and no one was allowed in or out of the coliseum while the children were loaded on to buses.

State district Judge Barbara Walther had signed an order earlier Tuesday allowing the state to begin moving the children into temporary foster care facilities -- group homes or other privately run facilities -- until DNA testing is completed and individual custody hearings can be completed by June.

CPS representatives declined to comment on the move.

Officials had said they would try to keep siblings together when possible, though some polygamous families may have dozens of siblings.

The process of moving the children got under way during the second day of court-ordered DNA testing of residents of the West Texas ranch compound of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

A judge ordered last week that DNA samples be taken to help determine the parentage of the children, many of whom were unable to describe their lineage. Some of the adults have been ordered by the state to submit to testing; others are being asked to do so voluntarily.

Authorities believe the sect forces underage girls into marriages with older men. No one has been arrested, but a warrant has been issued for member Dale Barlow, a convicted sex offender who has said he has not been to the Texas site in years.

Rod Parker, an attorney for the FLDS, said he is afraid authorities secretly intend to use the DNA to build criminal cases against members of the group. But state Child Protective services spokesman Greg Cunningham said: "We're not involved in the criminal investigation. That's not our objective."

Family relationships are immensely tangled within the sect, where multiple mothers live in the same household and children refer to all men in the community as "uncles."

Authorities say they need to figure out family relationships before they begin custody hearings to determine which children may have been abused and need to be permanently removed from the sect compound, and which ones can be safely returned to the fold. For now, they're all in state custody because child welfare officials believe sexual abuse has occurred or could occur imminently because of the teachings of the sect.

State social workers have complained that sect members have offered different names and ages and had difficulty identifying their mothers.

Parker acknowledged that family names within the sect can be confusing, but said: "No one is trying to deceive anyone. ... It's not sinister." Instead, he said that because many of the sect's marriages are not legal, adults and their children may legally have one name but use another within the community.

The collecting of DNA is likely to take most of the week, and it will be a month or more before the results are available, said Janiece Rolfe, a spokeswoman for the Texas attorney general's office.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

If you follow the link, you will see a picture of mothers and children at Ft. Concho; don't know if this is an out-of-date photo or if they're being housed in two different places now. You can also read the comments on the story, which won't give you a great opinion of the literacy levels in my town, but will demonstrate a grass-roots level of sympathy with the Mormons and disapproval of the way the legal authorities have handled the case.

I am officially annoyed with my news source. We get a twice-a-day e-mail service which I have always treated as the equivalent of scanning the headlines through the glass in the newspaper machine. I click on any stories that interest me and if I still feel hungry for more information after the brief stories provided at the site, I can do a web search or (gasp) buy a print newspaper. These brief stories are what I've been passing on to you. Typically, they should contain the highlights and they have mostly been from the major press service.

However, not only has WOAI not linked any stories about the possibility that "Sarah" was a hoaxer, they did link a lengthy and mean-spirited article purporting to analyze the FLDS women's clothing and hairstyles. Here's a sample:
The exact history of the hairstyle is unclear, but it is reminiscent of the Gibson Girl image of the 1800s. It's a pre-World War II look, exaggerated with the pompadour, Llewellyn says. Chloe Sevigny's character in the HBO show "Big Love," about modern polygamists in Utah, has mastered the 'do.

Celebrity stylist and salon owner Ted Gibson thinks it gives off a "homely" impression.

"It says 'I don't really care very much. I really don't have time to worry about the way that I look, because I have 20 children,"' Gibson said. "'He's going from wife to wife to wife, so why should I look any better than the other ones?"'
I don't think that's what it says at all. If they didn't care how they looked, they'd yank it back into a pony tail or wrap a single braid around their heads. The combination of braids, side-rolls, and pompadours these women wear are complex, time-consuming, and almost impossible to do alone. I look at them and think: "Wifely solidarity" - they have to be doing each other's hair.

In any case, picking on the appearance of the women who - whether as coerced teen brides or as mothers torn from their children, or both - have to count as the primary sufferers in this case is just mean.

I also note the complete absence of any pictures of men or women past their child-bearing years. If the FLDS has made a conscious PR decision to make the mothers their public face for this case, I think it is a wise one.
Mention of the hoax call possibility at last!
Phone number in Texas abuse report linked to Colo. woman

Last Update: 4/23 3:25 pm

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) - A court document says one phone number used to report alleged abuse at a polygamist retreat in Texas had been used previously by a 33-year-old Colorado woman.

It's not yet clear whether authorities suspect Rozita Swinton of Colorado Springs made any of the calls that triggered this month's raid of the compound.

An arrest warrant affidavit made public Wednesday says a phone number she had used previously was used for a call to a Texas crisis center before authorities conducted the raid and removed more than 400 children. Swinton's whereabouts are unknown.

Authorities have said a 16-year-old girl called a crisis center claiming she was abused at the compound. Authorities have not found that girl but say they have found evidence other children were abused.

©2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

And at least the state is recognizing the unwisdom of treating these kids like "normal" CPS cases. I shudder to think of one of these kids in Houston public schools! I presume they're being sent so far because the infrastructure of the smaller West Texas towns won't absorb them as well as the cities will; but it seems as though they ought to try to get slots in Lubbock, Amarillo, Fredericksburg, and El Paso before they ship to the other end of the state. When a person acclimated to semi-arid conditions lands in a humid area like San Antonio, or a place where the natives all have gills like Houston, respiratory infections follow. It took my sinuses five years to adjust.


Polygamist Sect Children Face Tough Transition Outside Ranch

Last Update: 7:31 am

SAN ANGELO, Texas (AP) - The hundreds of children from a polygamist compound taken into state custody are on their way to group homes, shelters and residences, but experts and lawyers fear their transition may be much harder than it is for other foster children.

The 437 children taken from the compound in West Texas will be plunged into a culture radically different from the community where they and their families shunned the outside world as a hostile, contaminating influence on their godly way of life.

Many of the children have seen little or no television. They have been essentially home-schooled all their lives. Most were raised on garden-grown vegetables and twice-daily prayers with family. They frolic in long dresses and buttoned-up shirts from another century.

"There's going to be problems," said Susan Hays, who represents a toddler in the custody case. "They are a throwback to the 19th century in how they dress and how they behave."

Buses have already shipped 138 children to group homes or boys' and girls' ranches, but most of the remaining children will be separated from their mothers for the first time when they are sent out of San Angelo in the coming days.

The state Child Protective Services program said it chose foster homes where the youngsters can be kept apart from other children for now.

"We recognize it's critical that these children not be exposed to mainstream culture too quickly or other things that would hinder their success," agency spokeswoman Shari Pulliam said. "We just want to protect them from abuse and neglect. We're not trying to change them."

The children were swept up in a raid earlier this month on the Yearning for Zion Ranch run by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a renegade Mormon splinter group. Authorities say it believes in marrying off underage girls to older men, and that there is evidence of physical and sexual abuse at the ranch.

The youngsters are being moved out of the crowded San Angelo Coliseum and will be placed in temporary facilities around Texas - some as far away as Houston, 500 miles off - until individual custody decisions can be made.

Those decisions could result in a number of possibilities: Some children could be placed in permanent foster care; some parents who have left the sect may win custody; some youngsters may be allowed to return to the ranch in Eldorado; and some may turn 18 before the case is complete and be allowed to choose their own fates.

Pulliam said the temporary foster care facilities have been briefed on the children's needs. "We're not going to have them in tank tops and shorts," she said.

Pulliam said the children will continue to be home-schooled by the temporary foster-care providers instead of being thrown into big public schools, where they could be bullied because of their differences.

In a related development, an arrest warrant affidavit made public Wednesday shows that a phone number used to report alleged abuse at the Texas retreat had been used previously by a 33-year-old Colorado woman.

It's not yet clear whether authorities suspect Rozita Swinton, of Colorado Springs, made any of the calls that triggered the April 3 raid of the compound.

Texas authorities have said a 16-year-old girl called a crisis center claiming she was abused at the compound. Authorities have not found that girl but say they have found evidence other children were abused.

In February, a woman calling herself "Jennifer" called 911 in Colorado Springs from the same number, claiming that her father had locked her in her basement for days, the document said. Swinton was arrested in connection with that incident on April 16 and later released.


Associated Press writers Monica Rhor in Houston and George Merritt in Colorado Springs, Colo., contributed to this report.

©2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Appeals all 'round, by the mothers:

Appeals Court agrees to hear arguments in Texas ranch case

Last Update: 11:38 am

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Women belonging to the Texas polygamist sect are seen after more than 400 children were taken from their compound in El Dorado, Texas. (CNN) AUSTIN (AP) - A Texas appeals court has agreed to hear arguments from dozens of female members of a polygamist sect whose children were seized in a raid earlier this month.

The Third Court of Appeals has set a hearing for April 29.

The mothers want the court to allow them to remain in contact with their children while the children are in state custody.

Child welfare and law enforcement officials raided a ranch owned by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and took 437 children they believed might be victims of physical or sexual abuse.

©2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
and for Mr. Jeffs:
Lawyers: Judge should toss jury verdict in Jeffs case

Last Update: 11:36 am

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Warren Jeffs (Douglas C. Pizac, Getty Images ) ST. GEORGE, Utah (AP) - Attorneys for the leader of a polygamous sect are going to court in Utah to seek a new trial.

Warren Jeffs' legal team claims his conviction for rape as an accomplice should be thrown out because a juror failed to disclose she was a rape victim.

The juror was replaced during deliberations. But Jeffs' attorneys say that's not allowed under Utah law. They'll argue their case Thursday.

Jeffs, 52, is head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The sect's Texas ranch was raided April 3 and hundreds of children were removed.

In September, Jeffs was convicted for his role in arranging the marriage of a 14-year-old girl to an older cousin. He's now locked up in Arizona awaiting trial there.

©2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
This morning's child custody news:
Mothers talk after legal pleas fail

Last Update: 4/24 10:04 pm

People arriving at court for hearing. (CNN) SAN ANGELO, Texas (AP) - One woman from a Texas polygamist ranch says the chaos caused by a raid earlier this month has turned into sleepless nights for mothers.

Dozens of the mothers were bused away from their children after their legal efforts to stay united failed, as the state sorts through the massive child custody case.

The number of children in custody now stands at 462, because officials believe another 25 mothers from the compound are under 18.

Child Protective Services says the girls initially claimed to be adults.

In a news conference at the ranch, a mother said she and others had been staying up all night watching over the children because they "didn't know what would happen."

Texas officials allege that the sect encourages adolescent girls to marry older men and have children. One sect leader says, "That's all it is, an allegation."

©2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Apparently they get to stay at the good shelters.

More Polygamist Children Placed In S.A. Foster Homes
Reported by: Kim Fischer
Email: [email protected]
Last Update: 4/24 6:40 pm

Print Story | Email Story

Related Links
Find out how to become a foster parent.
More children removed from the polygamist sect ranch in West Texas were brought to San Antonio Thursday.

A caravan of buses brought the children to San Antonio Thursday afternoon. The children will be held in foster group homes until individual custody decisions can be made.

A News 4 crew was allowed to tour one of the facilities Thursday. News 4 was asked not to identify the shelter for the children's safety.

The shelter is fully equipped with everything a child needs, including medical services like a dentist's office and an on-call psychiatrist.

The children will also have plenty to do since the facility includes a stocked art room, library, playground, and even a water park. All of activities may be new experiences for the children, so the staff said it's important to slowly work them into their new routine and environment.

"Our shelter has three wings, two together, and there's a separate one at the other end of the building," explained the shelters director Jack Downey. "We will put the children in that one, so they have a bed and bath all to themselves and they will be separated.

Along with the children that arrived in the San Antonio area Thursday, News 4 was told 17 nursing moms and their infants also showed up at a local shelter.

Another hearing has been set in the case. A Texas appeals court will hear arguments from some mothers whose kids were taken during the raid. The women want to remain in contact with the kids while they're in state custody. The hearing will take place Tuesday, April 29th.

Mr. Jeffs's appeal for a new trial has been rejected.
New trial for polygamist leader Jeffs is turned down in Utah

Last Update: 4/24 9:54 pm

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Warren Jeffs looks over at the jury during his trial September 25, 2007 in St. George, Utah. (Douglas C. Pizac, Getty Images) ST. GEORGE, Utah (AP) - A Utah judge has rejected a request for a new trial for polygamous-sect leader Warren Jeffs.

He was convicted of rape as an accomplice for arranging the marriage of a 14-year-old girl to an older cousin and sentenced to two consecutive prison terms to five years to life.

Jeffs' lawyers had argued his conviction should be thrown out because a juror failed to disclose she had been raped. The juror was replaced during deliberations and in rejecting the new trial, the judge says the defense had not raised objections when agreeing to seat an alternate.

Jeffs is head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The sect's Texas ranch was raided April 3rd. Hundreds of children were removed.

He's now locked up in Arizona awaiting trial in a different case.

©2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Okay, now we're getting somewhere. The only possible defense against charges of statutory rape is to show that the fathers were all within two years (am I remembering that right? I think that's the criterion under Texas law) of the age of the mothers; and that wouldn't relieve the church leadership of responsibility for an "unsafe environment." I wish I could hope that this would lead to an examination of the causes of teen pregnancy in the wider society, but I am not an optimist on this subject.
31 Polygamist Sect Teenage Girls Pregnant or Had Baby

Last Update: 4/28 4:46 pm

SAN ANTONIO (AP) - More than half the teen girls taken from a polygamist compound in west Texas have children or are pregnant, state officials said Monday.

A total of 53 girls between the ages of 14 and 17 are in state custody after a raid 3 1/2 weeks ago at the Yearning For Zion Ranch in Eldorado. Of those girls, 31 either have children or are pregnant, said Child Protective Services spokesman Darrell Azar. Two of those are pregnant now, he said; it was unclear whether either of those two already have children.

"It shows you a pretty distinct pattern, that it was pretty pervasive," he said.

State officials took custody of all 463 children at the ranch controlled by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, saying a pattern of teen girls forced into underage "spiritual" marriages and sex with much older men created an unsafe environment for the sect's children.

Under Texas law, children under the age of 17 generally cannot consent to sex with an adult. A girl can get married with parental permission at 16, but none of these girls is believed to have a legal marriage under state law.

A call seeking comment from FLDS spokesman Rod Parker was not immediately returned. Church officials have denied that any children were abused at the ranch and say the state's actions are a form of religious persecution.

Civil-liberties groups and lawyers for the children have criticized the state for sweeping all the children, from nursing infants to teen boys, into foster care when only teen girls are alleged to have been sexually abused.

No one has been charged since the raid, which was prompted by a series of calls to a domestic abuse hotline, purportedly from a 16-year-old forced into a marriage recognized only by the sect with a man three times her age. That girl has not been found and authorities are investigating whether the call was a hoax.

On Monday, CPS also revised its total count of children in state custody to 463, up one from Friday. Azar said the change resulted from finally getting the children out of the San Angelo Coliseum and into foster facilities around the state, where they were able to get a more accurate count.

Of those 463 children, 250 are girls and 213 are boys.

The sect, which broke from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints more than a century ago, believes polygamy brings glorification in heaven. Its leader, Warren Jeffs, is revered as a prophet. Jeffs was convicted last year in Utah of forcing a 14-year-old girl into marriage with an older cousin.

©2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Drib. Some of the information you'd like to have here isn't really any of the public's business, but won't it make a heck of a TV movie? San Marcos is a college town midway between Austin and San Antonio; part of a major metropolitan area, but a small town in itself.

State officials standing by while FLDS mother gives birth

Last Update: 4/29 10:14 pm

(CNN) SAN MARCOS, Texas (AP) - Child welfare officials and state troopers were standing guard outside a maternity ward in Texas where a teenage member of a polygamist sect was giving birth.

Church spokesman Rod Parker says the girl was admitted to the Central Texas Medical Center and gave birth to a healthy boy.

Officials will only say that the mother, also doing well, is "younger than 18." She will remain with her new son in a foster-care facility until a formal custody hearing will determine the pair's fate sometime before June 5th.

The teen's mother was present for the birth, but it's not clear who alerted her that her daughter was in labor.

State officials raided the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints' Yearning For Zion Ranch in Eldorado on April 3. They took custody of 463 children on the belief that the sect's practice of underage and polygamous spiritual marriages put the children at risk of physical and sexual abuse. The children are now scattered in foster-care facilities around the state.

©2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
And drab. http://www.woai.com/news/local/story.aspx?content_id=5eb5edb4-f401-4cd1-897b-5f5cc71fd54c

Bone Breaks & Abuse Allegations Found Polygamist Sect Children

Last Update: 7:26 am

SAN ANTONIO (AP) - Authorities investigating whether teen girls in a polygamist sect were forced into underage marriages and sex said they are also looking into possible abuse of young boys - allegations that drew a sharp rebuke by sect's members.

Carey Cockerell, the head of the state's Department of Family and Protective Services, told state lawmakers Wednesday that his agency was looking into whether young boys were abused based on "discussions with the boys" and journal entries.

In a written report, the agency said interviews and journal entries suggested young boys may have been sexually abused, but didn't elaborate.

Cockerell also said 41 of the 463 children seized from the Yearning For Zion Ranch in Eldorado had evidence of broken bones. Some of those children are "very young," he said.

After Cockerell's presentation to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, he sent an aide from the lieutenant governor's office to tell reporters he would not make further comments.

Members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the renegade Mormon sect that runs the ranch, countered that the state was deliberately misleading the public to cover up its own errors in the case.

A physician at the ranch, who is also a sect member, said most of the broken bones were from minor falls and that there was no pattern of abuse there.

The state took custody of all 463 children living at the ranch after an April 3 raid that was prompted by calls to a domestic abuse hot line. One of those minors gave birth Tuesday to a boy who will remain with his mother in a group foster-care facility.

The sweeping action in the custody case has raised concerns among civil liberties groups. Individual custody hearings are scheduled to be completed by June 5, but in the meantime, all the children are in foster facilities scattered around the state.

Before Wednesday's disclosure, the state had argued it should be allowed to keep the boys, not because they were abuse victims, but because they were being groomed to become adult perpetrators in the sect. Men in the sect take multiple wives, some of whom are allegedly minors.

After Cockerell's comments on broken bones, a briefing issued said, "We do not have X-rays or complete medical information on many children so it is too early to draw any conclusions based on this information, but it is cause for concern and something we'll continue to examine."

Sect spokesman Rod Parker called Cockerell's testimony "a deliberate effort to mislead the public" and said state officials were "trying to politically inoculate themselves from the consequences of this horrible tragedy."

"This is just an attempt to malign these people," he said.

Lloyd Barlow, the ranch's onsite physician, said he was caring for a number of FLDS children with broken or fractured bones at the time they were removed from the ranch.

"Probably over 90 percent of the injuries are forearm fractures from ground-level or low level falls," Barlow said. "I can also tell you that we don't live in a community where there is a pattern of abuse."

The state has said that nearly 60 percent of the 14- to 17-year-old girls in custody are pregnant or already have children. Many refused to take pregnancy tests, the agency said Wednesday.

Under Texas law, children under the age of 17 generally cannot consent to sex with an adult. A girl can get married with parental permission at 16, but the sect's girls are not believed to have legal marriages.

Church officials have denied any children were abused at the ranch and say the state's actions are a form of religious persecution. They also dispute the count of teen mothers, saying at least some are likely adults.

Cockerell told lawmakers the investigation has been difficult because members of the church have refused to cooperate. Parents coached children not to answer questions and children - even breast-feeding infants - were switched around to different mothers in what Cockerell called a coordinated effort to deceive.


Roberts reported from San Antonio and Castro reported from Austin. Associated Press Writer Jennifer Dobner contributed to this report from Salt Lake City.

©2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
I had missed the references to the Church of the LDS in Hitchcock's last movie till I accidentally came across this site last night:


Most of the other films referenced on the site seem to have been sponsored by Mormons or written by convinced anti-Mormons. The references in Hitchcock's film remain quite mysterious. :?
Here's a nice big drib. The authorities may have a "tricky case" ahead of them regarding polygamy per se, but that shouldn't matter with all this documentation of underage sex! The claim that underage marriage is "not very prevalent" is a lame defense, like saying: "Hey, hardly anybody gets raped." And of course most existing marriages are between adults at any given time. So what? If you're married at 16, it only takes two years to grow into legal age. That doesn't retroactively make your marriage legal.

Rare Look Inside Polygamist Families

Last Update: 6:31 am

SAN ANTONIO (AP) - Hand-scrawled records taken from a polygamist sect are helping untangle the spider-web network of family relationships at the Yearning For Zion ranch, where some husbands had more than a dozen wives.

The church records offer a peek into an intricate culture in which men related to the sect's prophet, Warren Jeffs, enjoyed favored-husband status in the distribution of wives and all young women were married by 24.

An Associated Press analysis of the records, which authorities seized in a raid last month, show that by the time a girl reached 16, she was more likely to be married than to live as a child in her father's household. The same was not true for boys.

Ben Bistline, a former member of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints who was raised in the sect, said Jeffs or other church leaders decided who got married and when. Jeffs is imprisoned on an accomplice-to-rape charge in Utah.

"It's just at the whim of the leader," said Bistline, who said successful businessmen who donate heavily to the sect or who are close to the prophet are generally favored. "There's a lot of nepotism involved."

The records, released by court officials last week, include 37 families totaling 507 individuals. At the time the lists were written from March through August of 2007, most of the people were living at the YFZ Ranch, though others were in homes along the Utah-Arizona line.

Two-thirds of listed households were polygamous, with the brothers of Jeffs and a senior elder claiming the most wives, up to 21 in one case.

Men still in their 20s made up most of the dozen monogamous marriages.

The husbands and wives were married in the FLDS, and none is believed to hold Texas marriage licenses.

Of the 19 youths listed as being 16 or 17, none of the boys are husbands, while nine of the girls are listed as wives. Only one 17-year-old girl remained unmarried.

Under Texas law, children under the age of 17 generally cannot consent to sex with an adult.
The young men in monogamous marriages will likely seek additional wives as they age, Bistline said.

"A man has to have at least three wives to get to the highest degree of heaven," he said.

After the raid, the state took custody of 464 children belonging to FLDS families, including one born later to a teen mother. Authorities alleged that teenage girls were being systematically abused and forced into underage marriages, while boys were being groomed to become future abusers.

Church officials insist they are being persecuted for their religious beliefs.

FLDS spokesman Rod Parker said the records indicate that many sect members "are either monogamous couples or adult couples, and that incidence of underage marriage is actually not very prevalent."
No criminal charges have been filed, though state authorities continue to investigate.

"Our investigation and prosecution will go where the evidence leads," Jerry Strickland, a spokesman for the attorney general's office, said in an e-mail statement.

As in many states, government-recognized marriage in Texas to more than one person at the same time is a felony. But the law also apparently applies to anyone who "purports to marry" - language used in Utah to target polygamists who marry in religious services but don't get marriage licenses.

Ken Driggs, an Atlanta lawyer who is an expert on the FLDS and the legal history of polygamy, said any prosecution of FLDS members for multiple marriages would be difficult because of the law's vagueness, questions of jurisdiction and the community's refusal to testify in previous instances.

"They have a tricky case in front of them," Driggs said.

The records are each labeled "Father's Family Information Sheet, Bishop's Record," and appear to be a kind of church census, with wives and children listed below the male head of household. The age and location of each individual is included, though some are incomplete.

Church elder Wendell Nielsen is listed as having the most wives at 21. Two of Jeffs' brothers also had numerous wives. His brother, Nephi Jeffs, had 14 wives listed. Isaac Jeffs, the brother who was driving Warren Jeffs when he was arrested outside Las Vegas in August 2006, had 10 wives listed.

The records, taken from a safe in an office at the ranch, were among the truckload of documents, computer disks and family Bibles seized from the ranch during a six-day search for records that showed underage marriages. Parker said he was unsure how complete the records are or what purpose they served.

Authorities raided the compound April 3 after a series of calls to a domestic-abuse hot line that purportedly came from a 16-year-old girl who was forced into a relationship at the ranch with a man three times her age. The girl has not been found, and authorities are investigating whether the call was a hoax.

Jeffs was convicted of being an accomplice to rape for arranging a marriage in Utah between a 14-year-old follower and a 19-year-old man. Jeffs awaits trial on other charges in Arizona.


The AP News Research Center in New York and Associated Press Writer Jennifer Dobner in Salt Lake City contributed to this report.

©2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
And a drab. My headline provider didn't have a very full story, but the local paper is the one breaking the news, so I noodled around their site till I found something a little fuller:

Mental health workers criticize state's care of sect children

SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Mental health workers sent to help care for the women and children removed from a polygamist sect's West Texas ranch are criticizing Child Protective Services, saying the state's decision to seek custody of the children was unnecessary and traumatizing.

In a set of unsigned written reports made at the request of their regional governing board, workers with Hill Country Community Mental Health-Mental Retardation Center said that the CPS investigation of suspected child abuse and its decision to seek state custody of all 464 children punished mothers who appeared to be good parents of healthy, emotionally normal kids, the San Antonio Express-News reported for its Sunday editions.

"The mothers are incredibly loving and patient with the children. The children were well-socialized and well-behaved and interacted willingly and happily with us," one wrote.

Another wrote, "The children were sweet and well-mannered upon our arrival. They obeyed their mothers and appeared to be healthy and well-nourished. They had none of the traditional withdrawal common in abused children."

A board member provided the newspaper copies of the nine reports by MHMR employees. The reports reveal varying degrees of anger toward the state's child welfare agency for removing the children from their community, separating them from their mothers or for the way CPS workers conducted themselves at the shelter.

A sexual abuse complaint prompted an April 3 search of the Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado, a compound built to house members of a breakaway Mormon sect called the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Children were swept from the ranch and placed in a shelter in San Angelo's coliseum before they were sent later that month to foster care facilities across the state.

"The entire MH support staff was 'fired' the second week; we were sent home due to being 'too compassionate,'" one report stated.

The state has said that enough evidence of "spiritual marriages," pregnancy and childbirth by underage girls at the ranch exists to seek permanent removal of all the children from their parents because of the risk of child abuse.

In order to respond to the allegations, CPS spokesman Patrick Crimmins asked for a list of written questions and replied with a two-sentence e-mail Thursday: "We have received no complaints from Hill Country MHMR. However, we will be looking into what are obviously very serious allegations, and sharing these allegations with other agencies as appropriate."

He said Friday that the agency had no further response.

The MHMR workers helped staff large shelters in San Angelo where mothers were at first allowed to stay with the children. Only mothers of younger children were allowed to remain after the first few days.

Many of the MHMR workers described child welfare workers as high-handed, rude or uncaring toward the mothers.

Two of the MHMR workers did report seeing CPS workers treating mothers and children with friendliness and compassion - including one who also reported being threatened with arrest for challenging a decision to separate special needs children from their mothers after they were told earlier in the day that it would not happen.

That worker was among three who reported that CPS workers lied to the mothers. Several said the mothers were denied access to their lawyers.
One MHMR worker made a claim almost identical to one appearing on an FLDS Web site after the mothers were given a choice to return to the ranch or stay at a battered women's shelter. Most mothers went to the shelter, "because they were told they would be able to see their children if they did not return to the ranch," the worker reported.

At the time, the FLDS Web site claimed CPS had told the mothers they had a better chance of seeing their children if they went to the shelter. A CPS spokesman called the claim "blatantly untrue."

Several MHMR workers noted the investigatory role of CPS workers extended to the daily life of the shelter and routine interaction between mothers and children.

Shelter directors and CPS spokesmen have previously acknowledged the shelter was chaotic, especially in its first days.

Kevin Dinnin, the president of Baptist Children and Family Services, served as incident commander at the shelter under a contract between his agency and the state. He said he couldn't confirm many of the allegations made by the MHMR workers.

"Some of it is unfounded," he said. "Some of it is accurate, depending on your point of view. Were the shelters crowded? Yeah. But it's a shelter. And yes, CPS workers were taking notes and listening. Yes, they were always around. I'm not defending CPS, but it's hard to give people privacy in a shelter."

He said that better communications could have reduced tensions between CPS and the MHMR staff.

Dinnin said he remembers an MHMR staffer making announcements at the shelter that contained misinformation to a group of FLDS women. He asked the staffer to leave, and a Department of Public Safety trooper escorted her out.

The written statements were given to the Hill Country MHMR board anonymously because the workers had signed agreements not to disclose what they had seen, said board member Jack Dawson.

Dawson, a Comal County commissioner, said the employees had the right to provide information to the board and said his release of copies of the statements to the Express-News didn't violate their confidentiality agreements.

"What they saw was so horrendous, they had to report it to the board," Dawson said. "We were taken aback. I have every confidence their stories are accurate. Our people are professionals, with years and years of service in their fields."

© 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Learn more about our Privacy Policy.

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Here's the website of the entity making the complaints:
For those confused by Texas geography - in the map insert, Tom Green County, where the decision to disperse the kids was made, is the white space next to Schleicher/Sutton counties and above Val Verde. That jagged southern border of Val Verde County is the Rio Grande. Bexar County (pronounced Bear), where both I and the newspaper breaking the story are based, is in the white space south of Comal County and east of Medina. It'd probably take about five hours to drive across that map east to west. The clinic itself appears to be a private psychiatric facility that receives state funding for some of its programs.

I have to say, everything about this report from both sides sounds plausible to me. Bureaucracy is bad at the best of times, but the American child welfare "system" has never worked well at any level and has always been understaffed, underfunded, and overwhelmed.
Drib. Note the themes in this story that echo yesterday's. The harder you try to control people, the more chaotic it becomes (a lesson for cults and bureaucracies to treasure).


Another Girl From Polygamist Compound Gives Birth In S.A.
Reported by: Leslie Bohl Jones
Email: [email protected]
Last Update: 6:44 am

SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- A mother being held as a minor in state custody from a polygamist sect gave birth Monday to a baby boy immediately taken into child-protective custody as the state acknowledges the mother may be an adult.

The boy is the second baby born in state custody since Texas child welfare officials raided the sect's ranch in West Texas April 3rd.

The mother has been in state custody, treated as a minor, since last month. CPS spokesman Patrick Crimmins acknowledged Monday she is among 27 girls whose age is in dispute.

A state district judge issued an injuction Monday preventing CPS from moving the newborn and mother from Travis County until a hearing Thursday, in which father Dan Jessop will request his wife and three children be released from state custody.

Patricia Matassarin, Jessop's attorney, said the mother is 22 and should not be in state care as a minor. Crimmins said officials were reviewing documentation of the mother and others who claim they are over age and will release them from state custody if they are adults. He said he doesn't know how long it will take to determine whether their claims of adulthood are legitimate.

But Rod Parker, an attorney and spokesman for the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, accused the state of deliberately holding a pregnant mother it knew was over age so it could take the baby into custody upon its birth.

"They just wanted to keep the mother in custody until they could get the baby," Parker said. But Crimmins said the FLDS members gave conflicting information about their names and ages, so sect members whose ages were in dispute were kept in custody.

"We didn't have documentation. The other thing, too, frankly is the information we got... changed over time," he said.

Matassarin said CPS was struggling to place the mother and newborn late Monday because of possible exposure to chicken pox at an Austin shelter where other sect children are living. She said Jessop told her that the mother and newborn had been poised to spend the night in a CPS office late Monday, but were now set to sleep on air mattress in another home. Crimmins did not immediately return a phone call for comment late Monday.

That bold bit is to highlight the fact that I'm unsure whether the reporter elided a portion of the quote (and what could possibly go in there?) or wished to indicate a significant pause - which should have been indicated by an M-dash. If I were more dedicated, I'd e-mail her and ask. (I presume that's a her, Leslie being more often female than male in America.)
The more I hear about this case, the more I question the presumption of innocence which supposedly underlies the legal system in the United States.

It appears that these people are being presumed guilty by association; and even that associated guilt is questionable.

At what point does this cease to be a question of whether the children need protection from their families and become a matter of religious persecution by the state?

I simply do not see Texas rounding up everyone who is cohabiting without a marriage license or minor females who are pregnant - just this one group. And equal treatment under the law is what we are promised.
PeniG said:
....whether the reporter elided a portion of the quote (and what could possibly go in there?) or wished to indicate a significant pause - which should have been indicated by an M-dash.

It's an elision. Often it's the editors that put it in when a quote's too long.
I know what it ought to be. I'm just not as confident as I could hope to be that it was used correctly. I'm not that impressed, grammatically, with my local news sources, alas.
Today's news stories are all about finances - the State's:

Polygamist Sect Price Tag So Far: $7.5 Million

Last Update: 6:48 am

An April 3rd raid started nearly 7.5 million dollars in state spending in the first 19 days of what's now one of the largest child custody cases in U.S. history.

The figures obtained by the Austin American-Statesman offer some of the first clues to the financial costs of the state's seizure of more than 400 children from a West Texas polygamist commune.

A spokeswoman for Governor Rick Perry cautions that the numbers, obtained through the Texas Public Information Act, are preliminary and unaudited. Perry's office has yet to release official cost totals.

Texas officials raided the Eldorado (ehl-duh-RAY'-doh) ranch of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, citing evidence that the sect has been marrying off underage girls to older men.

Money spent on the massive child welfare operation is expected to be the focus of a state Senate Finance Committee meeting Tuesday in Austin.


Information from: Austin American-Statesman, http://www.statesman.com

©2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

and the sect's:


Polygamist sect's finances are murky By MICHELLE ROBERTS, Associated Press Writer
Fri May 16, 3:30 AM ET

ELDORADO, Texas - In just five years, the West Texas polygamist sect transformed 1,700 acres of scrubland purchased for $700,000 into a bustling ranch with a blazing-white limestone temple, sprawling three-story log cabins, woodworking shops and a dairy.

Assessed value of the property now: $20.5 million.

How did members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints do it?

Sweat equity was clearly one factor. The men quarried limestone themselves from the hard ground and built the enormous homes with their own hands, using skills learned at construction companies close to the sect's main base of operations, on the Arizona-Utah line.

But as for where they got the money for building materials, dump trucks, rock-cutting equipment and other supplies, that is still something of a mystery.

"Who funded it? We're investigating. That's for dang sure," said Jeff Shields, a court-appointed lawyer studying the sect's finances.

Some suspect the FLDS supplied money to Eldorado from a $114 million trust fund that once included all the homes and land in the side-by-side FLDS towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz. Money may also have come from construction businesses and other ventures run by sect members, including an aircraft wheel and brake manufacturer in Nevada that holds a $1.2 million Pentagon contract, and an engineering firm that landed $11.3 million in work from Las Vegas water authorities.

Questions about the source of the sect's money have been swirling around the FLDS since Texas authorities raided their Yearning for Zion ranch last month and seized more than 460 youngsters because of evidence that the sect has been marrying off underage girls to older men.

The renegade Mormon splinter group bought the property for $412 an acre in 2003 and rapidly turned it into a self-contained home for roughly 700 people, with rows of planted vegetables and other farming enterprises, a dairy that produces milk and cheese, and shops for cabinetmaking and other woodworking — all to supply the ranch, not to turn a profit on the outside.

Enormous homes went up in a matter of weeks, and when the temple was built, at least 200 men swarmed to the property to cut rock from the soil and assemble the gleaming 80-foot house of worship, said J.D. Doyle, a pilot who has taken hundreds of photos of the ranch's development from his small plane. With the natural clay soil useless for farming, sect members brought in black dirt to grow vegetables.

"They worked around the clock. They can put up a 21,000-square-foot house in 2 1/2 weeks. Move in and have it perfect," Doyle said. "It was amazing to us to watch them do this."

The sect paid $424,000 in property taxes last year, or about 18 percent of Schleicher County's annual revenue. It is the third-biggest taxpayer in the county, behind two pieces of land that produce oil. Although FLDS is a church, it never sought tax-exempt status in Texas or in other Southwest states in which it operates.

Judge Johnny Griffin, the county's chief executive, said that as far as he knows, ranch residents paid their tax bill on time and without complaint.

FLDS spokesman and attorney Rod Parker said he doesn't know how the ranch and equipment were purchased or why the insular group never sought tax-exempt status.

The four men listed on Yearning for Zion corporate documents have no listed phone numbers in Texas, and the numbers for the Utah businesses controlled by David S. Allred, the member who scoped out the property first, have been disconnected.

Court-appointed accountants are trying to figure out if some of the money came from a trust fund now under government control.

The trust, set up in the 1940s, covered essentially everything in Hildale and Colorado City. In 2005, however, a Utah judge appointed an accountant to dissolve the trust after state attorneys argued that the sect's prophet, Warren Jeffs, and other leaders were using the assets for their own benefit.

Jeffs was arrested in 2006 and is serving up to life in prison after being convicted in Utah as an accomplice to rape for arranging the marriage of a 14-year-old girl to an older man.

Shields, an attorney on the trust case, said there has never been a full accounting of the trust assets because church leaders refused to turn over documents or answer questions. Even the identities of the trustees are a mystery; more than half are listed as "unnamed" in court documents.

The court-appointed lawyers overseeing the trust have subpoenaed any financial records state troopers may have seized in the April 3 raid on the Texas ranch.

"We have good cause to believe there's something relevant to what we're doing up here," Shields said.

Parker called such links "fantasies" and denied any trust money was used to fund the ranch.

The sect has other sources of money beyond the trust. Former members and experts on the sect say it encourages members to sign over any earnings from outside jobs to church leaders. In return, the church gives followers housing, clothes and food.

Within FLDS, "nobody owns anything. Everything is owned by the prophet, even your dress. You don't own the dress. You're allowed that article of clothing based on his mercy," said former member Carolyn Jessop, who lived in Hildale.

The outside ventures include New Era Manufacturing, an aircraft parts maker and defense contractor whose chief executive has been identified as an FLDS leader and close associate of Jeffs.


Associated Press Researcher Judith Ausuebel contributed to this report.

The financing question is a serious one, as there is never enough money in the child welfare budget. Some years ago, my husband worked for the city's day care program in an administrative capacity. Technically, he was a file clerk, but the job description included processing paperwork and for a time he was solely responsible for terminating participants who weren't following the rules, were no longer eligible, etc.

On the one hand, the supposedly ironclad policy was that CPS cases were never terminated under any circumstance; on the other hand, he was continually under pressure to terminate individual CPS cases for financial reasons; and when the budget was used up, no new cases of any sort could be added until some were terminated. This being a bureaucracy, if enough people with enough authority signed enough papers he could be forced to terminate a CPS case, CPS cases could be reclassified, and cases were sometimes denied day care improperly. One CPS child whom he had been forced to terminate made the news by dying of neglect and abuse a week later. It still bugs him more than fifteen years down the line.
I think the state is being optimistic about how long this is going to take, but all things considered, we're getting to the legal proceedings faster than I expected.

Check out the photo at the link - we appear to have a father on-camera!
Hearings to Begin in Polygamist Sect Cases

Last Update: 6:44 am

SAN ANGELO, Texas (AP) - The parents of the more than 400 children taken from a polygamist sect's ranch will begin Monday laying out their individual cases and learning what they must do to regain custody.

The hearings, part of an enormous custody case that has stretched the legal and child welfare resources of the state, are scheduled for all five courtrooms in the Tom Green County Courthouse over the next three weeks.
Texas child welfare authorities have 463 children in foster care, taken because of allegations that members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints were forcing underage girls into marriage and sex at the sect's compound in Eldorado. FLDS members deny any abuse.

So far, 168 mothers and 69 fathers have been identified in court documents, though DNA test results are two to four weeks away.

More than 100 children still have not been matched with mothers. Officials have been trying to group siblings together with their mothers as the custody case moves forward.

But the case, which began with a raid on April 3, has been marked by confusion since the beginning.

Child Protective Services has complained that women and children have given different names and lied about ages. The agency has also struggled with identification of children and women because many have similar names, and some of the young women, who don't wear makeup and braid their hair, look much younger than their actual age.

As many as two dozen of the girls held in custody may be adults; authorities are still trying determine their actual ages.

At the hearings, CPS, the parents and the judge are expected to go over a plan for what services the children will get from the state and what parents must do to regain custody.

CPS is working from a template plan that includes generalities like establishing a safe living environment and following recommendations of professionals. The template does not require them to renounce polygamy or to offer guarantees that their children will not be pushed into underage or polygamous marriages.

The FLDS children were removed from the Yearning For Zion Ranch in Eldorado during a raid that began after someone called a domestic abuse hotline claiming to be a pregnant 16-year-old abused by a middle-aged husband. The girl has never been found and authorities are investigating whether the calls were a hoax.

Child welfare authorities seized the children, arguing there was widespread abuse by FLDS parents who forced underage girls into marriage and sex and trained boys to become future perpetrators.

Members of the renegade Mormon sect, which teaches polygamy brings glorification in heaven, have said they are being persecuted for their religious beliefs.

©2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

The template in question probably omits the polygamy and sex-with-minors factors because it is a standard form intended for protection from more common threats like physical and sexual abuse of young children. If the ultimate conditions of return do not include these factors, I fail to see the point of this entire exercise.
Two stories this morning:

Paying for the Raid at the Polygamist Ranch

Last Update: 6:50 am

News 4 has uncovered that Bexar County is housing more children from the polygamist ranch in West Texas than any other area in Texas.

40 percent of those children are in Bexar County and taxpayers may be asked to cover the court costs associated with having those children here.

Two judges have been asked to calculate just how much it would cost Bexar County taxpayers, if the local court system is asked to handle the cases of children staying here.

Over the next year, its estimated expenses after the raid at the polygamist compound will cost the state $30 million. Parents separated from their children are trying to regain custody.

"No parent knows what they have done wrong. All of them have been accuse of being bad and there's no cure," said Willie Jessop, Ranch Spokesman.

The children were removed after the state argued that the sect encourages kids to engage in underage marriage and sex.

On Tuesday, 187 children taken from the ranch are staying in San Antonio. News 4 has learned that there are more children from the compound here than anywhere else in the state.

"It really is a very large task and it has a serious effect on our system," said Judge Andy Mireles, 73rd District Court.

If the Bexar County Court system ultimately ends up overseeing cases involving the children placed here, then local taxpayers may be asked to pay for everything from medical experts to lawyers for the children.

Judge Andy Mireles said it could be some time before we know just how much that could all cost. He also worries about the effect on local CPS caseworkers.

"You did a report not too long ao, Channel 4 did, about how the system is overloaded and how it was stretched to the limit before," said Mireles.

After some improvements, the judge said the system has once again become overloaded.

He said 15 local caseworkers have been pulled from their regular duties to handle cases of children taken from the ranch.

News 4 checked with a spokeswoman for Child Protective Services. She does not believe the system is overloaded and said all the cases are being distributed evenly.

A state senate committee met on Tuesday to discuss how to pay for the costs associated with the raid.

It is estimated $2.2 million will be needed to help the local courts handle legal proceedings for each child.
Ah, American politics! It all comes down to who will pay for what.

Relatives outside sect seek custody in Texas case

Last Update: 5:17 am

(CNN) SAN ANGELO, Texas (AP) - As individual custody hearings continue, information is emerging that at least eight mothers from a polygamist sect were not underage as first thought.

The information comes from the testimony of Texas child welfare officials in the early days of the hearings.

The disclosures bring the number of underage mothers in state custody to 23. Other reclassifications are likely as judges sort out family relationships.

Yesterday two men excommunicated by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints said they're willing to take custody of their children. Both men deny the FLDS parents at the Texas retreat are abusive or endanger their children.

About 460 children now in foster care once lived at the retreat.

Child welfare officials argued underage girls were being forced into marriages and sex.

©2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
This story is sufficiently short and poorly headlined that I presume that it's been edited down by my provider and a fuller AP version is out there on the wire somewhere.
Ah, bureaucratic stupidity in action!

Texas officials rebuffed at sect ranch's gate

Last Update: 6:09 am

(CNN) ELDORADO, Texas (AP) - Texas child welfare authorities want to go back inside the ranch of a polygamous sect to see if there are any more children there.

Twice yesterday, Child Protective Services workers escorted by a sheriff's deputy asked to be allowed back onto the Yearning For Zion Ranch. Both times they were told they couldn't come in without a warrant. Agency officials aren't saying if they'll now try to get one.

Some 460 children were taken from the ranch during raids six weeks ago. Officials want to check rumors that more children may have arrived since then.

Texas officials think the sect may have forced underage girls into marriage and sex. Members deny any abuse. And they're fighting in court to regain custody of the children.

©2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Of course they're not letting you in without a warrant, dumbass - get one already if you have a legitimate reason to search! Why'd you try twice without one? And why on earth would more children have been shipped in to a place that's already a focus of media and legal attention and from which children have already been removed?
Shocking development:

Texas seizure of polygamist-sect children thrown out

Last Update: 6:34 am

(CNN) SAN ANGELO, Texas (AP) - Child welfare officials in Texas are deciding whether to appeal a court decision that pulls the rug out from under a decision to remove hundreds of children from a polygamist sect.

A state appeals court yesterday said the state failed to show the youngsters were in any danger.

The more than 440 children were taken from the ranch during raids last month and put in foster care out of fear they were being subject to abuse, including underage marriage.

Yesterday's ruling is seen as a humiliating defeat for the Texas Child Protective Services agency.

Members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints see it as a vindication. They say they're being persecuted for their religious beliefs. One of their lawyers calls it "a great day for Texas justice." But the head of the sect says he'll believe it when he sees "the schoolyard full of children" again.

The state now has a week-and-a-half to decide whether to appeal or to send the children home.
©2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

This story doesn't contain some important details; later today, after I get some work done, I may cruise the net for a story which gives some insight into the basis of this opinion. CPS was responding to a complaint on an abuse hotline and there is plenty of evidence, in the form of personal testimony and criminal convictions, that sexual exploitation of minors is common in the FLDS. The way the actual law is written, removal of children from potentially abusive situations is mandatory. You can rule that the law is badly written, underfunded, unfairly enforced, or poorly administrated (I would argue all four), but I don't see that this provides a basis for a decision against the legality of what the CPS did. (Just because they're being scapegoated doesn't mean they aren't guilty...) Perhaps the judge considered the danger to be only to girls between the ages of 13 and 17 and all other siezures to be improper? I could see that. I'll let you know if I find anything.

It doesn't even say which appeals court, geez. That was a really fast appeal, too - everything in the courts takes forever. A Hispanic mother on the South Side of San Antonio whose kids were taken away on the same date would still be trying to find a lawyer who gave a care, speaking of unfairly enforced and poorly administrated.
Here we go! Much better. Bold text indicates the bits I think are most significant; feel free to disagree.


Court: Texas wrongly seized sect children
Judge has 10 days to comply with ruling; applies to 48 polygamist mothers

Tony Gutierrez / AP
Texas officials removed 464 children and placed them in custody after the April 3 raid on the polygamist sect ranch.

Court: Kids wrongly seized
May 23: A state appeals court orders many children seized from a Texas polygamist sect to be returned to their parents. NBC's Don Teague reports.
Today show

More coverage
Click for full coverage of the FLDS hearings in the San Angelo Standard-Times.

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Under scrutiny
Hundreds of children are removed from a ranch run by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
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updated 8:42 a.m. CT, Fri., May. 23, 2008
SAN ANGELO, Texas - In a ruling that could torpedo the case against the West Texas polygamist sect, a state appeals court Thursday said authorities had no right to seize more than 440 children in a raid on the splinter group's ranch last month.

It was unclear how many children were affected by the ruling. The state took 464 children into custody in April, but Thursday's ruling directly applied to the children of 48 sect mothers represented by the Texas Rio Grande Legal Aide, said Cynthia Martinez of the agency. About 200 parents are involved in the polygamy case.

The Third Court of Appeals in Austin ruled that the state offered "legally and factually insufficient" grounds for the "extreme" measure of removing all children from the ranch, from babies to teenagers.

Story continues below ↓


The state never provided evidence that the children were in any immediate danger, the only grounds in Texas law for taking children from their parents without court approval, the appeals court said.

Discuss: What's your reaction to the ruling?

It also failed to show evidence that more than five of the teenage girls were being sexually abused, and never alleged any sexual or physical abuse against the other children, the court said.

It was not immediately clear whether the children scattered across foster facilities statewide might soon be reunited with parents. The ruling gave Texas District Judge Barbara Walther 10 days to vacate her custody order, and the state could appeal.

'They're very thrilled'
FLDS spokesman Rod Parker said sect members feel validated, having argued from the beginning that they were being persecuted for their beliefs.

"They're very thrilled. They're looking forward to seeing the children returned," he said.

Julie Balovich of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid said she expected attorneys for all of the parents to seek to join the ruling.

"It's a great day for Texas justice. This was the right decision," said Balovich, who represented 38 families. Balovich was joined by several smiling mothers who declined to comment at a news conference outside the courthouse.

Click for related content
Polygamist ranch being searched again
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Polygamists sect unleashes PR campaign

Every child at the Yearning For Zion Ranch in Eldorado was taken into state custody more than six weeks ago, after Child Protective Services officials argued that members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints pushed underage girls into marriage and sex and groomed boys to become adult perpetrators. Only a few dozen of the roughly 440 children seized are teenage girls; half were under 5.

The appeals court said the state was wrong to consider the entire ranch as an individual household and that the state could not take all the children from a community on the notion that some parents in the community might be abusers.

"The existence of the FLDS belief system as described by the department's witnesses, by itself, does not put children of FLDS parents in physical danger," the court said in its ruling.

The court said that although five girls had become pregnant at age 15 or 16, the state gave no evidence about the circumstances of the pregnancies. It noted that minors as young as 16 can wed in Texas with parental consent, and even younger children can marry if a court approves it.

Balovich said the appeals court "has stood up for the legal rights of these families and given these mothers hope that their families will be brought back together."

Deciding on an appeal
CPS spokesman Patrick Crimmins said department attorneys had just received the ruling and would make any decision about an appeal later.

Sect parents praise ruling
May 23: James and Nancy Dockstader talk with TODAY’s Ann Curry about the prospect of getting their children back after an appeals court ruled that the decision to remove hundreds of children from a polygamist sect’s compound was unjustified.

Even before Thursday's ruling, the state's allegations of teenage girls being pushed into sex appeared to be deflating.

Of the 31 sect members CPS once said were underage mothers, 15 have been reclassified as adults — one was 27 years old — and an attorney for a 14-year-old girl said in court that she had no children and was not pregnant, as officials previously asserted.

The custody case has been chaotic from the beginning.

CPS has struggled with even the identities of the children for weeks and scattered them across foster facilities all over the sprawling state, with some siblings separated by as much as 600 miles.

The sect children were removed en masse during a raid that began April 3 after someone called a domestic abuse hot line claiming to be a pregnant abused teenage wife. The girl has not been found and authorities are investigating whether the calls were a hoax.

The FLDS, which teaches that polygamy brings glorification in heaven, is a breakaway of the Mormon church, which renounced polygamy more than a century ago. Members contend they are being persecuted by state officials for their religious beliefs.

© 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Teeny tiny drib this morning:

Texas appeal says FLDS families are flight risks

Last Update: 4:55 am

(CNN) AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Texas child welfare officials have updated their state Supreme Court appeal of a ruling against the removal of 440 children from a polygamist retreat.

Officials argue that families of the children could flee Texas if they regain custody, leaving state courts with no jurisdiction.

The Third District Court of Appeals ruled last week that the state failed to show that the youngsters were in any immediate danger.

There's a little bit more text, but it's the usual background summary for those tuning in late. CPS is probably right about the flight risk. Since the parents don't own any property to speak of as individuals or hold jobs outside the compound, and since the FLDS appears to be well-organized to protect its members, and since everybody has extended family out the wazoo - there isn't any need to sit still.


Judge Orders Immediate Return of Polygamist Group's Children

Last Update: 10:03 am

SAN ANGELO, Texas (AP) -- A Texas district judge has ordered the return of more than 400 children taken from a polygamist group's ranch.

Parents are allowed to begin picking up their children at 10 a.m. Monday.

The parents are not allowed to leave Texas without court permission and must participate in parenting classes. They were also ordered not to interfere with any ongoing child abuse investigation and to allow the children to undergo psychiatric or
medical exams if required.

The order comes just days after the Texas Supreme Court said Texas Child Protective Services overreached in seizing custody of the children from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints ranch in West Texas.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

This would appear to be a reasonable decision (and a practical one, too, given how much of a strain those 400 kids must be putting on state resources): "No, they shouldn't have snatched up everybody's kids but there's legitimate reason for investigation and if you want to keep them, you cooperate."

Also, anyone who does vanish now will be a fugitive and a lawbreaker, legitimately pursuable by anybody and subject to arrest anywhere in America. (But of course, we're real close to Mexico and nobody involved with the Wall of Shame cares about folks heading south.) For as much good as that will do; but if we lived in a perfect world none of this would have happened anyway.
Drib. I'm sure all will be well now, since he's promised.http://www.woai.com/news/national/story.aspx?content_id=75bee4c2-714c-4266-b735-71cad98ceb85

FLDS elder says no more underage marriages

Last Update: 4:46 am
(CNN) SAN ANGELO, Texas (AP) - An elder with the Texas church where children were seized by the state says the group will not allow underage marriages.

Willie Jessop says members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints will be counseled against such unions. He insists marriages in the church have always been consensual.

Meanwhile, some of the roughly 430 children taken into custody by Texas have been reunited with their parents. The state's supreme court ruled last week that state officials went too far in seizing them. One mother whose eyes filled with tears as she embraced her 9-year-old daughter called it a "great day."

It's expected to take several days for all the families to be reunited because the children were sent to facilities hundreds of miles apart.

©2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Drab. I think this is winding down as an active news story. We're in for the long haul of routine legal investigation now. Depending on how dedicated CPS is and how justified the charges are, we may or may not hear any more about it - unless, of course, there are dramatic developments about the girl who didn't get returned.
More sect children reunited with happy parents

Last Update: 5:35 am

(CNN) ELDORADO, Texas (AP) - More families from a polygamist group have begun returning to their Yearning For Zion Ranch, two months after hundreds of children were removed.

State Child Protective Services officials say 397 have gone home with their parents as of yesterday. The remaining children are likely to be reunited with parents today, except for one girl whose attorney asked that she stay in custody.
It's not clear if all the families will return to the ranch in Eldorado.

The Texas Supreme Court ruled last week that the state overreached by taking all children from the ranch when evidence of sexual abuse was limited to a few girls.

The families are not allowed to leave Texas under the order signed by Judge Barbara Walther. And parents must attend parenting classes and allow children to be examined as part of any abuse investigation.

©2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Has any conclusion been reached about the phone call that justified the original interventions?

Remarkably little net coverage, one way or another. Longest recent thing I found was this from the Salt Lake Tribune:


The Texas Supreme Court is not the appeals court that called for the return of almost all the children, "discredited" is an odd word to use in the context, and in any case this detail is not related to the subject in hand, since all such calls (like bomb threats) have to be treated on the assumption that they are real and the kids were returned on grounds that had no bearing on the validity of the reasons for the raid. That little bit of error makes me want another source, to cross-reference for bias; but of course the hoax call is a weird sidenote until and unless somebody produces evidence that it was a hoax by law enforcement - which would indeed make the whole thing legally problematic - I can see why most papers would regard poor Ms. Swinton as an uninteresting detail not worth following up. Her case has its own sad fascination, however, and might be worth discussing in a different thread.

Woman linked to calls that triggered FLDS raid claims life of abuse
By Lisa Rosetta
The Salt Lake Tribune
Article Last Updated: 06/02/2008 10:53:32 AM MDT

Jun 1:
Abuse calls from 'Sarah' convinced others that 'she has lived this'Police link years of calls to SwintonThe largest child custody case in U.S. history - discredited last week by the Texas Supreme Court - was prompted by soft-spoken Sarah Barlow's pleas for help.
That Sarah doesn't exist. But the caller may have been a woman who, like the fictitious girl, claims to have endured childhood sexual abuse.
Police have linked the calls that triggered the Yearning for Zion Ranch raid to Rozita Swinton, a 33-year-old Colorado Springs woman who they say has assumed at least nine different personalities since 2005, among them "April," "Dana," "Ericka" and "V."
All are girls who called for help claiming to have been sexually abused - by a father, an uncle or a husband, court records show. Rozita has explained the girls' presence to shelter workers by saying that they are there to "protect" her.
Rozita has worked full-time for an insurance company for seven years, attends community college part-time for general study courses, and is a practicing Mormon. She is her neighborhood's delegate to the state Democratic convention. And a person diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder who blanks out chunks of time and unplugs from the world around her - like she did the week of the April 3 raid, her roommate Becky Hoerth told Colorado Springs police.
Hoerth, who moved in with Swinton the day after the raid, described Rozita as quiet, gripped by a mental state that
is "not anything you can even break into." It wasn't until a week later that Rozita "started coming around," joining Hoerth for dinner and mountain biking, she said.
"Rozita just disconnects from everything," she told police.
Hoping to rescue Sarah, Texas authorities flowed onto the ranch, then decided to remove more than 450 children from its residents, members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The polygamous sect shares historical roots with the Mormon church, which has disavowed its former practice of polygamy.
A troubled childhood
Born in Nashville, Rozita was placed in Tennessee's foster care system at 14. She attended several high schools before graduating from Pearl-Cohn Magnet High School in 1992.
That year, the Tennessee Department of Human Services obtained a restraining order blocking her father, Clarence, from contacting her. Rozita had reported that her father had sexually abused her and she remained afraid of him, the state said.
After turning 19, Swinton lived with a Tennessee woman who was caring for foster children. "One of the counselors working with [Rozita] knew me and called to ask if I would take her in," the woman wrote in her book, After Disclosure, under the pen name Kate Rosemary.
Contacted by The Salt Lake Tribune, Rosemary declined to be interviewed, citing the safety of her current foster children. But in her book, she wrote Rozita, who also rejected interview requests, was "tragically abused" and had been diagnosed with multiple personality disorder.
The company that distributes Rosemary's books also publishes a Westview newspaper. With a recent article about Rozita, it included a photo of her during a trip to El Salvador.
It also quoted "a Nashville source very close" to her as saying Rozita "has flashbacks to a time when she was an abused child and teenager, and to times when she had been locked up and kept hostage."
But Rozita's father, Clarence Swinton, says the allegations of sexual abuse are untrue.
"When she brought this stuff up, she was in a ... state institution, a reformatory for juveniles," he said. "She had run away from home and the state had custody of her. ... I had no contact with her whatsoever."
"Negative and bitter"
Clarence met Rozita's mother during his 12-year stint in a Tennessee prison. He was convicted of first-degree murder in 1965 for shooting the owner of the Outlaw Grocery in Murfreesboro during a robbery.
The robbery was the last in a string of crimes committed by Clarence, then 25, and Robert Winchell, 22, both soldiers stationed at Fort Campbell. Clarence bought a bag of cookies in the store, left, and then returned and opened fire on a customer, who survived, and the store owner, who died three days later.
The pair was sentenced to 99 years, but in 1976 Swinton was granted a clemency hearing before the Board of Pardons and Parole. It recommended commuting his sentence with parole supervision for 15 years.
Clarence said his early parole was not connected to Tennessee Gov. Ray Blanton's cash-for-clemency scandal in the 1970s. "I was not in on that," he laughs. "I was not that blessed. I had nobody doing nothing for me."
He said he earned his way out of prison, first as a counselor among his fellow inmates, and later as a trusty.
It was during the first job that Clarence met Rozita's mother, who was a parole board clerk. As a trusty in the last three years of his sentence, Clarence worked outside the prison. It was then that the couple - who never married - had Rozita, then son Courtney. They stayed together until the children were 8 and 6. Rozita's mother had an older son from another relationship; he would later be gunned down in the Nashville projects.
A year after the couple split, Courtney left his mother to live with Clarence. Rozita, Clarence said, became "negative and bitter and she wanted to come, too."
A chronic runaway, Rozita eventually stayed in three different institutions for juveniles, he said. Her abuse allegations against him were "bald face lie," and state employees, knowing Rozita was not credible, never investigated him, he asserts.
Clarence said after Rozita moved to Colorado Springs - sometime between 1992 and 1996, after she briefly worked as a nanny in Utah - she called him to apologize for "all of the grief she started," he said. "She [said] she saw a movie that led her to do that."
"I didn't lie"
Colorado Springs police appear to have first investigated Rozita for false calls in June 2005 - after a desperate 16-year-old named Jessica told an adoption agency she wanted to abandon her newborn son and kill herself. The agency called police - who traced Jessica's phone number to Rozita.
"I didn't lie," she said during a videotaped interview with a detective, letting out a drawn-out sob. "I called you because I wanted you guys to help me," she explained, wringing her hands.
Rozita said she thought she had been asked to come to the police station to "do a report [on] her dad" - not to be questioned about making a false report and obstructing justice.
The detective walked out. Rozita's sobs intensified. "I just want my baby," she said in a barely audible voice. Rozita later admitted there was no baby to be concerned about, but claimed she bore a daughter by her abusive father.
Rozita was put on probation. But police say she continued to make a blizzard of calls, including one in February 2006 that prompted Colorado Springs police to conduct a door-to-door search for "Jennifer," a young girl claiming to be locked up in a basement.
Sarah Barlow started calling for help in late March, contacting shelters in Washington state and Texas, and anti-polygamy activist Flora Jessop in Phoenix. Convinced the she was abused and in danger at the YFZ Ranch, Texas authorities launched the raid.
As Sarah remained missing, police connected the cell phones used to make the calls to Rozita. On April 16, officers searched her apartment and asked her to come to the Colorado Springs Police Department. Around 10:30 p.m., she was placed under arrest in connection with a false call in Colorado.
Two hours later, a close friend posted her $20,000 bail.
"Person of interest"
Nearly two months later, two Texas appellate courts have said authorities did not have adequate evidence of abuse and the sect's children are headed home.
A spokeswoman for the Texas Rangers repeated Friday that Rozita remains a "person of interest" in connection with the YFZ Ranch calls as they await unspecified test results.
Charged in Colorado with one count of false reporting, Rozita is scheduled to appear in El Paso County District Court for a pre-trial conference Friday - the same day her brother Courtney appears in a Nashville court on charges of possessing and selling cocaine.
PeniG said:
the hoax call is a weird sidenote until and unless somebody produces evidence that it was a hoax by law enforcement - which would indeed make the whole thing legally problematic

ta - neat summary :)

do we know if anyone is looking for such evidence?

I do not know, but this discussion archive turned up in my google search this morning:

http://www.websleuths.com/forums/archiv ... 64030.html

That's getting into conspiracy territory and I'm not at home there.

One thing I have always wondered - how did someone in Colorado get hold of 911 in El Dorado? You dial that number, you get the emergency service closest to you.