Sect member making home in Lockney

Fort Worth Star-Telegram/May 18, 2008

Another follower of a polygamist church has set up shop in Texas, but his solitary outpost is nothing like the sprawling compound near Eldorado.

For the past year, Samuel Fischer, a follower of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or FLDS, has been quietly running a cabinet-making business with his large family in the small town of Lockney.

Fischer, 53, hasn't built a compound or invited hundreds of other followers to this agricultural community about 90 miles south of Amarillo that relies on corn and cotton crops.

It's just him and his family - he has 24 children - living in a large house outside the nearby town of Plainview.

His business, Techsun Industries, occupies a 176,000-square-foot manufacturing plant that sat vacant for years.

Fischer keeps a low profile, but is vocal in his opinions of the April 3 raid on the YFZ (Yearning for Zion) Ranch near Eldorado. More than 460 FLDS children were placed in temporary foster care after the raid. Texas Child Protective Services officials said they found evidence of underage women who were pregnant, had children or both.

"Let me ask you this: If it was happening to your friends and relatives, how would you feel?" Fischer said. "...There hasn't been a single shred of proof. The state of Texas's position has been shoot first and asks questions later."

Fischer has a brother living with his family in the compound. He hasn't had contact with him since the raid and wonders where his nieces and nephews are.

"There's some very dear friends down there that I think a whole lot of," Fischer said. "I'm not saying we're a perfect people. You'll never find an organization of people who are. But any allegations that are made are dealt with very carefully and very quickly. We do not tolerate in the least what their accusers are saying happened."

Since Fischer arrived in Lockney, many of the 1,919 residents have been concerned about a possible influx of FLDS followers, said Alice Gilroy, editor and publisher of the Floyd County Hesperian Beacon.

There were rumors that Fischer inquired about an abandoned work camp in the nearby town of Floydada that contained "condolike" buildings, Gilroy said. But that hasn't happened.

Lockney Mayor Rodger Stapp said Fischer has caused no problems. He said Fischer trades with local businesses and he and his family occasionally eat at the local pizza restaurant.

"Evidently, he's taking care of his business," Stapp said. "Most the people here pretty well tend to their own business. People around here don't get too excited about anything unless something bad happens. I think most people have accepted them."


The talk about more FLDS followers moving to Lockney from Eldorado resurfaced after the raid, when residents spotted several large trucks coming and going from the plant.

"I do believe he's in the perfect spot to help them," Gilroy said. "But who knows if that will happen."

But Fischer quickly shot down that speculation, saying there's no reason for FLDS followers to move to Lockney because of CPS restrictions on the children.

"They won't allow them to stay with FLDS, so there's no point in them coming here," Fischer said. He adds that he moved to Texas because of poor economic conditions in the twin polygamous towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., where most of the 10,000 FLDS followers have historically been based.

Fischer, while confirming he is an FLDS member, sidestepped questions about whether he has multiple wives.

"I don't see a reason to even answer that question," Fischer said. "I believe in living the way I've been taught. I know that I'm living right, and I don't have to justify the way I live to anyone else."

He said some of his grown children have left home - one is serving in Iraq - and none are forced to marry.

When Fisher arrived more than a year ago, he told a Lockney town hall meeting that his family had adopted nine children and then adopted their mother, too, according to the Eldorado Success.

Future of YFZ Ranch

Eldorado residents are curious about the future of the YFZ Ranch.

The compound's population, which numbered around 700 before the raid, has dropped dramatically. And the lush, green grass around the sect's massive white limestone temple has turned brown from neglect.

"It looks like a ghost town," said Randy Mankin, editor of the Eldorado Success.

Fischer said he has never visited the ranch, but he believes that the raid could change the sect's long-term plans.

"We take it one day at a time," Fischer said. "My friends in Eldorado hoped to be there for a long time, but it's hard to say what will happen now."

Schleicher County sheriff's deputies were unable to serve most FLDS members with summons for the next round of hearings for the children that start Monday in San Angelo.

The parents were notified by a legal ad in Thursday's Eldorado Success.

State Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, R-Kerrville, who represents Schleicher County and sponsored legislation that raised the minimum age of marriage in Texas from 14 to 16, is hopeful that the state's stepped-up pressure might persuade FLDS followers to move somewhere else.

"Eventually, if they're not here, that's OK with me," Hilderbran said. "If they leave the state, I hope some other state will do as much to protect those children as we have done."

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