Schleicher County -- A U.S. Postal Service worker delivered a handful of white envelopes meant for residents at the Yearning for Zion Ranch — a group that has agreed to leave the property after being served legal papers.
After pushing mail into their box, the worker drove past the driveway, where tall, white gates were open and Texas Department of Public Safety cruisers sat parked inside the property Thursday.
Uniformed troopers were at the site, and men in jeans and long-sleeve, button-down shirts talked and moved about near the fence line, appearing to operate a crane and a saw.
About 2 p.m. Wednesday, the Schleicher County Sheriff’s Office and the Texas Department of Public Safety met with the residents of the YFZ Ranch and gave them copies of court orders related to a recent forfeiture of the property, according to a Thursday news release from the DPS.
Serving the documents was the next step in the attorney general’s civil case against the YFZ Ranch, an FLDS compound near Eldorado that once was home to hundreds of members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Its current population is unclear.
In April 2008 more than 400 children were removed from the ranch in a raid by state, local and federal authorities, prompted by a report of child abuse that later was revealed to be a hoax call. The children eventually were returned to their families, but evidence taken in the raid served as the basis for a series of cases that led in the imprisonment of a dozen men from the sect, including leader Warren Jeffs.
51st District Judge Barbara Walther, who signed the initial search warrant that allowed law enforcement to raid the compound in 2008, ruled in favor of the state and on Jan. 6 entered a default judgment in the civil case, which directed authorities to take possession of the forfeited ranch
Representatives of the United Order of Texas Trust, which owns the ranch, did not appear at the hearing in Schleicher County. The FLDS has not fought the case.
The final judgment was the result of the state Attorney General’s Office filing for the seizure of the nearly 1,700-acre property in 2012.
They filed claiming that the “proceeds from illegal activity were used to purchase the ranch, which FLDS leaders bought in a failed attempt to establish a remote outpost where they could insulate themselves from criminal prosecution for sexually assaulting children.”
The residents have agreed to vacate the property, the release said.
DPS officers were at the ranch Thursday, and its gates were open, but no one was allowed on the property.
“Law enforcement personnel are working with the ranch occupants to assist with their departure of the property, to preserve the property and to successfully execute the court order,” according to the Thursday news release.
Continuing activities on the property will include obtaining a court-ordered inventory of property and protecting the remaining assets.
It was unclear when that process is expected to end.
The writ of possession was issued March 6 and names five FLDS members.
The DPS will not conduct interviews on this topic, according to the release. Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran was unavailable for comment Thursday afternoon.
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