ST. GEORGE The man at the center of the raid on the Fundamentalist LDS Church's Texas compound has been questioned by Texas Rangers, but he was not taken into custody by them.
Clad in their trademark cowboy hats and silver star badges, the law enforcement officers traveled to Utah on Saturday to meet with Dale Barlow, who is trying to persuade them they have the wrong man.
"Right now, we're just here to talk to him," Texas Ranger Don Williams said as he walked into the Mohave County probation office in St. George.
About a half-hour later, Barlow left a free man for now, at least.
"We made it clear to the law enforcement officials that Dale Barlow has not been to Eldorado (in Texas), he has not been to that compound, he had nothing to do with the accusations," Barlow's attorney, Bruce Griffen, told the Deseret News afterward. "They made a mistake."
The Texas Rangers left, declining to say if Barlow remains a suspect or would be arrested.
"We can't talk about that," Williams said, getting into a truck.
An arrest warrant is still out for Barlow, accusing him of marrying a 16-year-old girl whose phone call to a domestic-violence hotline triggered last week's raid on the YFZ Ranch and resulted in 416 children being taken into protective custody.
A search warrant filed in a San Angelo, Texas, court said the girl made a pair of phone calls on March 29 and 30. Whispering into the phone, she said she was 16, had an 8-month-old baby, was pregnant again and wanted to leave the guarded compound.
The girl said her husband was Dale Barlow and said he would "beat and hurt" her whenever he got angry. Attorneys for the FLDS Church have said in court papers that Barlow was not at the ranch, and also said that the girl's phone call was not corroborated, suggesting that it did not justify the massive search of the YFZ Ranch.
An attorney for FLDS leader Warren Jeffs questioned if the girl exists at all.
"I smelled a rat from the beginning," attorney Michael Piccarreta told the Arizona Republic. "I think the Texas authorities need to make a careful analysis of whether they have been part of a ruse."
Jeffs, 52, is facing criminal charges in Arizona, accusing him of performing child-bride marriages. He was convicted last year in Utah of rape as an accomplice, stemming from a marriage he performed between a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin.
Barlow, 50, pleaded no contest in Arizona last year to a charge of conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor. The Colorado City, Ariz., man was accused of fathering a child with a 16-year-old girl. He spent 45 days in the Mohave County Jail and will spend three years on probation. Barlow is also a registered sex offender.
His probation officer said Barlow has regularly checked in.
Barlow's situation is being watched closely by those in the FLDS strongholds of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz. As the meeting was under way, an SUV with tinted windows sat parked across the street the men inside watching the law enforcement officers. When a Deseret News reporter approached the vehicle, it drove away.
Such vehicles commonly follow outsiders as they travel around the fundamentalist border towns.
Barlow wouldn't say anything as he left the meeting but told the Deseret News in an earlier interview that he had never been to the Texas ranch.
"I do not know this girl that they keep asking about," he said.
Griffen said Texas Rangers plan to attempt to corroborate Barlow's claim that they have the wrong man as their suspect."I think these gentlemen are here in good faith. I think they're willing to take a look at the possibility that a mistake has been made and they're not putting the cart before the horse," he said Saturday. "I think they've got a lot of collateral information that's indicated that Mr. Barlow is not an individual that they should have any interest in."