Affidavit shows abuse claims at Eldorado compound

Fort Worth Star-Telegram/April 8, 2008

Eldorado - The 16-year-old girl whose calls to a family violence shelter led to the massive raid at a polygamous compound in West Texas said she was repeatedly beaten and abused after she arrived at the YFZ Ranch three years ago.

According to court documents released Tuesday by Texas authorities, the girl said the man she married "beat and hurt her" whenever he got angry.

In the affidavit, the girl said another woman from the sect would hold her infant child while her husband beat her.

She said in the March 29 calls that she was using another person's cellphone.

On March 30, she called another local shelter and said she and an adult male "had been married in a spiritual union through the church," but there was no formal marriage.

She said the man had gone away into the "outsider's world"' but she did not know why he left the ranch, about 45 miles from San Angelo.

At a brief press conference Tuesday, Child Protective Services spokeswoman Marleigh Meisner said CPS investigators have finished their investigation at the ranch. She said CPS workers have legally removed 416 children and 139 women from the ranch and believe they have found all of the children at the 1,691-acre property.

But Meisner said criminal investigators remain at the compound four miles north of Eldorado. Meisner also said that Fort Concho, where all of the women and children have been taken, has become overcrowded and authorities are transferring 170 women and children to another facility in San Angelo.

Meisner said investigators still didn't know whether the 16-year-old was among the children pulled from the compound on the grounds that they were all in danger of "emotional, physical, and-or sexual abuse."

The documents said that investigators discovered a number of teen girls who appeared to be pregnant as they searched the compound.

"Investigators determined that there is a widespread pattern and practice of the (Yearn for Zion) Ranch in which young, minor female residents are conditioned to expect and accept sexual activity with adult men at the ranch upon being spiritually married to them," read the affidavit signed by Lynn McFadden, a Department of Family and Protective Services investigative supervisor.

McFadden said that as soon as girls reached puberty, they were spiritually married to an adult male and required to produce children.

Authorities have issued an arrest warrant for church member Dale Barlow, who is believed to be in Arizona, but the girls' husband is not identified in the court documents released Tuesday.

The teen also indicated she is several weeks' pregnant.

Since authorities raided the 1,700-acre polygamist compound last week, child welfare officials have been interviewing the children in search of the 16-year-old and to investigate allegations of abuse.

Investigators said some of the children were unwilling or unable to provide the names of their biological parents or identified multiple mothers.

The boys were groomed to be ready to marry underage girls upon adulthood and engage in sexual activity, "resulting in them becoming sexual perpetrators," the affidavit said. This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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