Documents showing abuse released in West Texas polygamist compound case

KEYTV, Texas/April 10, 2008

Texas will take money from an emergency fund to help the Health and Human Services Commission pay for the care of hundreds of women and children from the fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Even more new details are emerging about alleged child abuse within the locked gates of the compound, and concerns have been raised for the past four years.

The primary reason being given is because until now everyone says their hands were tied. Rumors and speculation about alleged child physical and sexual abuse, underage marriages and holding people against their will inside the church are nothing new. They were raised four years ago in Eldorado and even more recently at the state capitol.

But until one 16-year old girl cried out officially for help just over a week ago, everyone says the same thing: they did not have probable cause to take action.

In San Angelo, the fate of hundreds of children is in limbo. Victim Services workers and family counselors are preparing for the largest temporary custody battle in the state's history.

When police searched the FLDS temple last Saturday night, they discovered "spiritual beds" on the top floor, reportedly used by men having sex with teenage girls as young as 13. And reportedly some church members tried to hide some of the children from police.

"They were shuffled around to houses. As we were searching houses, they were [being moved]. Kind of like playing the eggshell game," Cpt. Barry Caver with the Texas Rangers said.

The Schleicher County Sheriff was on the defensive - trying to explain why it took so long to act - while reassuring everyone he's had an inside informant the whole time.

"I'm not going to go into details if the informant was on this property, if they were in Utah, if they was in Arizona, Canada. where have you. I will just say yes, I had an informant," Sheriff David Doran said.

Four years ago the sheriff's own deputies were suspicious, and state legislators were warned what to expect.

A week ago, an official complaint was made and the state moved in. 416 children and 139 adult women have now left the compound; for some, it's their very first time voluntarily outside the church's locked gates.

"We always believed America would be a free land," said one member of the FLDS church. That comment is the only thing anyone inside the FLDS church compound has had to say so far.

Next week the child custody hearing will take place. When asked how crowded the courtroom will be, Child Protective Services representatives told reporters that it might as well be "a crowded a stadium." That hearing is scheduled one week from Thursday.

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