Phone number in Texas abuse report linked to Colo. woman

Associated Press/April 24, 2008

Colorado Springs, Colorado - A woman suspected of making false abuse claims in Colorado used a telephone number that was later used to report alleged abuse at a polygamist retreat in west Texas, according to an affidavit made public Wednesday.

It's not yet clear whether authorities suspect Rozita Swinton, 33, of Colorado Springs, made the calls that triggered an April 3 raid of the compound. The arrest warrant affidavit released Wednesday says that several calls alleging abuse there were made using several phone numbers, including the number linked to Swinton.

The more than 400 children found at the retreat in Eldorado are now in state custody. Texas officials and lawyers have said that even if the call that prompted the raid turned out to be a hoax it would not affect their custody case because the state acted in good faith.

Swinton's whereabouts were unknown and she did not immediately return a phone message. It wasn't known whether she had an attorney.

Swinton was arrested April 16 and later released on a misdemeanor charge of false reporting in a February case in Colorado Springs with no known ties to the raid in west Texas. She's accused of posing as a teenager named "Jennifer" and falsely claiming in a 911 call that her father had locked her in her basement for days, the arrest warrant affidavit released Wednesday said.

Swinton pleaded guilty to misdemeanor false reporting in a 2005 case out of Castle Rock, Colo.; a one-year sentence was deferred. She had claimed in phone calls to be a 16-year-old named Jessica who was suicidal after giving birth; there was no baby.

"The investigator was surprised at her age because she sounded like someone who was in her mid- to late teens even though she was 30," Castle Rock police Lt. Douglas Ernst said.

The warrant also links Swinton to calls made throughout October from a "Dana Anderson." The caller claimed to be a young woman being abused by her pastor at Colorado Springs' New Life Church, and later as a 13-year-old student at Liberty High School who said she was being drugged and sexually abused by her father.

Officers linked the calls to Swinton in March after a Colorado Springs counselor got someone named Dana Anderson to acknowledge that her first name was Rozita, the document said.

In mid-April, Texas Rangers called Colorado Springs police regarding their investigation into the Eldorado polygamist retreat, Yearning for Zion Ranch.

The calls that triggered the raid of the ranch were purportedly made by a 16-year-old girl who said her 50-year-old husband beat and raped her. Texas authorities have not found that girl but say they have found evidence other children were abused.

Texas Ranger Brooks Long asked Colorado Springs police about two telephone numbers, both with Colorado Springs area codes, that were used to make calls to a Texas crisis center. One of the phone numbers, the document says, "was possibly related to the reporting party for the YFZ Ranch incident," and was one of the numbers police had connected to Swinton.

The document says the calls were made sometime since October but was not more specific. The raid was triggered by three calls made March 29 and 30 to the Newbridge Family Shelter in Texas.

Texas authorities also are investigating a separate batch of calls made to a crisis center in Washington state.

Authorities have called Swinton a "person of interest" in the Texas case. Two Texas Rangers were with Colorado officials when they searched Swinton's home.

Texas authorities said the search turned up several items suggesting a connection between Swinton and calls regarding the Eldorado retreat and other Texas and Arizona compounds owned by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a renegade Mormon sect. The items weren't identified.

Texas Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Tela Mange on Wednesday said only that the Texas Rangers' investigation is continuing.

The calls that triggered the raid were made by someone using the name named Sarah Barlow, according to Long.

Flora Jessop, executive director of the Child Protection Project, a Phoenix-based organization that helps girls and women leaving the polygamous culture, said she has recorded nearly 40 hours of conversations with someone who said her name was Laura. "She claimed to be the twin sister of Sarah, who made the initial call in Texas," said Jessop, a former member of the FLDS church.

The caller got most of the details of the sect right, from specifics of the religion and culture, to the of homes in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., where she said she was being held, Jessop said. She added, however, that other things she said made her suspicious, such as calling her parents "Mom" and "Dad" instead of "Mother" and "Father," as FLDS members do.

Texas' child welfare agency says its investigation into the ranch, including interviews with children, has found evidence of abuse. They allege that the sect encourages adolescent girls to marry older men and have children, and that boys are groomed to become future perpetrators. Sect members deny the allegations.

Documents related to Swinton's arrest had been sealed by a judge at the request of Texas authorities. The arrest warrant affidavit was released Wednesday after The Associated Press filed a motion to unseal the records Monday.

Associated Press Writer Michelle Roberts in San Angelo, Texas, and Jennifer Dobner in Salt Lake City contributed to this report.

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