DNA taken from polygamous sect newborn in Texas

The Associated Press/December 8, 2008

San Antonio (AP) - Texas investigators took DNA samples Monday from a baby born to a teenage member of a polygamous sect months after a high-profile raid, trying to determine the father's identity and whether he is an adult.

Jerry Strickland, a spokesman for the state attorney general's office, confirmed Monday that investigators had a search warrant and gathered a DNA swab.

Child welfare authorities have said in court filings that investigators believe the girl, now 17, was married to a man in the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints when she was 14. In Texas, someone younger than 17 generally cannot consent to sex with an adult.

Authorities previously tried to examine and collect a sample from the baby, born June 14, but the mother refused to disclose the child's whereabouts. A standoff in court in November led to an undisclosed agreement between the two sides, but the search warrant forced the issue.

The attorney general's office is handling the prosecution of some FLDS members accused of charges including bigamy and sexual assault of a child. The Associated Press generally does not name possible victims of a sex crime.

FLDS spokesman Willie Jessop said authorities went to an FLDS home in the San Antonio area, where some of the families have moved since the April raid on their West Texas ranch, and collected DNA from the baby girl.

He had said previously that the teen mother, who was in foster care late in her pregnancy, was afraid authorities would take the newborn if she allowed them to examine the baby.

The teen mother was among 438 children taken from the Yearning For Zion Ranch near Eldorado and placed in foster care in April. The Texas Supreme Court ruled less than two months later that the state had overreached in the foster care placement, and the children were all returned to their parents. One girl was later returned to foster care.

All but a few dozen of the children's cases have been dropped from court oversight altogether.

Twelve FLDS men, including the sect's jailed prophet Warren Jeffs, have been indicted on charges related to underage marriages and bigamy. Jeffs, convicted in Utah as an accomplice to rape, awaits trial in Arizona on other charges related to the marriages of the sect girls there.

The FLDS is a breakaway sect of the Mormon church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which renounced polygamy more than a century ago.

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