SAN ANGELO, Texas Officials in Texas on Tuesday released documents detailing the reasons why police raided a polygamist ranch and took custody of 416 children.
In the affidavit by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, officials say a 16-year-old girl living at the YFZ Ranch called a local shelter March 29 to report that she was being abused by an adult male to whom she had been "spiritually married."
The document states that the girl, who said she was several weeks pregnant and had an 8-month-old infant, requested assistance leaving the ranch, which is owned by the Fundamentalist LDS Church. The affidavit states that the girl called several times that day, expressing the "need to leave her current living situation."
Also on Tuesday, Marleigh Meisner, spokeswoman for Texas' division of child protective services, said "all the children have been safely removed from the ranch."
However, Meisner said she "still cannot confirm that we have the 16-year-old girl."
According to the affidavit, the girl told officials during the phone call that she was taken to the ranch by her parents three years ago. Then, last year, when she was 15, she was "spiritually married to an adult male member of the church." He was 49, and she became his seventh wife.
"The teenage mother stated that she began to be abused shortly after she started living at the ranch. She advised that the adult male would beat and hurt her whenever he got angry," according to the document.
This included hitting her in the chest and choking her, the affidavit states.
When the abuse occurred, the girl told officials, other women at the ranch would hold her infant child. The last time he beat her was on Easter Sunday, according to the affidavit. The document also indicated that on a previous occasion the man had beaten her so severely that it resulted in her having several broken ribs.
After that incident, she was taken to a hospital, and a doctor wrapped her torso with a bandage and told her, "Take it easy for a few days," according to the document.
The girl also said the man would force himself on her sexually, the affidavit states.
She told officials she was not allowed to leave the ranch except for medical care. In such cases, a man would drive and another woman would accompany her.
She tried to come up with a plan to escape by pretending to be sick, the document says. She then realized that wouldn't work, according to the affidavit, because she wouldn't be able to take the baby with her unless the infant was ill.
The affidavit states that the girl told people at the shelter that she was using someone else's cell phone. She was being quiet so no one would hear her, the document states.
The girl also said, according to the affidavit, that "her parents did not live on the YFZ Ranch and that she has not had any contact with them to explain that she does not want to continue to be on the ranch."
A day later, on March 30, a teenage girl called a local shelter. She reported that she had been "spiritually married" to an older man, but that man had left the ranch to the "outsiders' world."
The department of family services determined the man had been indicted in Arizona for sexual contact with a minor. During the same conversation, she said that church members told her if she tried to leave she would be found and locked up.
She also said that she had been told that outsiders would "hurt her, force her to cut her hair, to wear makeup and clothes and to have sex with lots of men."
The document states that the teenage girl also said her parents were preparing to send her 15-year-old sister to live at the ranch.
"At the conclusion of the conversation she began crying and then stated she is happy and fine and does not want to get into trouble and that everything she had previously said should be forgotten," the affidavit states.
Based on the information gleaned from the phone calls, Texas officials successfully petitioned a judge for a warrant to search the ranch.
While at the ranch searching for the girl, investigators observed a number of young girls who appeared to be pregnant. Investigators said there was a "widespread pattern and practice" at the ranch in which young females are "conditioned to expect and accept sexual activity with adult men at the ranch upon being spiritually married to them."
Based on the circumstances at the ranch, according to the affidavit, the state family services department determined that immediate danger exists to the children who live there.
"Similarly minor boys residing on the YFZ Ranch, after they become adults, are spiritually married to minor female children and engage in sexual relationships with them, resulting in them becoming sexual perpetrators," the affidavit states.
During interviews with child protective services, several children were unable or unwilling to name their parents or "multiple mothers." Some also would not provide information like birth dates, the document says. "This has made it difficult to determine who are the parents of the the children located on the YFZ Ranch."80 comments on this story
A court hearing has been scheduled for April 17 to determine what will happen to the children who have been taken from the ranch.
Some 170 of the 416 children were moved Tuesday afternoon to a separate makeshift shelter. It appears they are being kept in the "cattle arena" annex of the San Angelo Coliseum.
The other shelter at the historic Fort Concho had reached maximum capacity. The children had first been taken there.Texas officials apparently moved the children during the afternoon press briefing while all the members of the news media were indoors.