A girl alleged to have been married to an adult at age 14 has become the new focus of the state's investigation into allegations of sexual abuse at a Schleicher County polygamist compound.
In a brief hearing Thursday, the girl's attorney told 51st District Judge Barbara Walther her client was not present, torpedoing a planned hearing on a motion by the state's Child Protective Services agency that would have compelled the girl to produce her newborn child for DNA testing.
"My client is not willing to appear voluntarily," said Kelly J. Ellis, the San Angelo attorney appointed to represent the girl.
Walther rescheduled the hearing for Tuesday, ordering the girl, her mother and the newborn all to be present.
According to the CPS motion, the girl gave birth June 14, just after Walther returned 439 children to their parents at the order of the Texas Supreme Court. The higher court ruled Walther should not have allowed the state to take emergency custody of all the children after its April raid on the YFZ Ranch northeast of Eldorado.
Court documents do not list the exact age of the girl, nor do documents released in the course of the seven-month case provide any immediate indication of how old she is or reference to her parents, Sarah Barlow and Joseph Steed.
According to the motion filed Nov. 14 by CPS' new lead attorney for the case, John R. Dolezal, the girl is still younger than 18 and was married at 14.The girl "has a child," Dolezal said in court Thursday. "In order for us to do our duties investigating sexual abuse, we need the child produced to do genetic testing. We're here in the best interests of (the girl), to protect her from sexual abuse."
Ellis noted the girl's mother has agreed to a CPS service plan that prohibits the girl from contacting the father of her child.
The girl was not present Thursday, Ellis said, because the attorney had filed a motion to quash a CPS subpoena - a motion that generally excuses the subpoenaed party from appearing until the judge makes a ruling. Walther rejected the motion.
CPS and representatives from Court-Appointed Special Advocates said they had received cooperation from the girl and her mother when they made announced visits to their stated San Antonio home, but that the address appeared to be used only for those interviews.
"We've made numerous unannounced visits," Dolezal said. "We've never been able to speak to her. It appears no one is living at that location more than two or three days a month."