ELDORADO, Texas David J. Williams is repenting from a distance. Though he was earlier cast out of the Fundamentalist LDS Church, he still drove more than 1,200 miles from his home in Nevada to the Schleicher County Memorial Building to give a DNA sample.
"I have three beautiful sons that were forced from their mother," he said Tuesday. "I am here to give all that I have to aid in the return of the children to their parents."
Williams showed up alongside other FLDS members to undergo a cheek swab, be photographed and given a number in an effort to establish paternity for the 437 children seized from the YFZ Ranch.
"Right through here, guys," a police officer said to three FLDS men who showed up in the makeshift clinic.
All day Tuesday, an SUV or a pickup would pull up and women and men would hustle inside the building here on the courthouse square. They would emerge about 15 minutes later.
"It's very easy," said one man, who refused to give his name or say how many children he had.
Williams hasn't seen his sons Parley, 9, Jacob, 7, and Teral, 5, for more than three years.
"That which is most precious beautiful children and family," he said, his voice shaking slightly. "What honorable father and parent wouldn't give all to preserve their children from what's traumatic and hostile to them? What honorable father and parent wouldn't give all they have to protect the innocence of their children and family?"
He said he is a non-member of the FLDS church "at this time," acknowledging to the Deseret News he was told to "repent from a distance" a term used by FLDS leader Warren Jeffs when numerous members were excommunicated.
"I was given a test," he said. "I was given a test to myself by Heavenly Father's appointed prophet."
The DNA samples are being required by a judge, who believes they are necessary to establish biological relationships. Child protective services workers have said they are still encountering difficulty in verifying names, birthdates and relationships among children and parents.
Rod Parker, an attorney who is acting as a spokesman for the FLDS Church, said Tuesday he believes every man at the ranch has submitted to testing. He said he fears Texas authorities collected DNA evidence in an effort to build a criminal case against the FLDS people.
"I think it's an embarrassment for the state to require this. We have nothing to hide, we've broken no laws," said a man named Rulon, who would not give his last name. "It makes you feel like a criminal."
One man who has done it before and is again being ordered to give a DNA sample is Warren Jeffs. His name is among the long list of parents from whom the judge is seeking DNA samples. Jeffs is currently incarcerated in the Mohave County Jail in Kingman, Ariz., where he faces criminal charges accusing him of performing child-bride marriages.
"He had to give DNA samples upon being booked into our jail," said Mohave County Sheriff's spokeswoman Trish Carter, adding that she did not know if Texas authorities would be able to get that sample or must require a new one.10 comments on this story
FLDS members who spoke to the Deseret News Tuesday said they were complying in an effort to get their children back. They waded through crowds of TV cameras to comply with the order. It turned into a public spectacle when clownish TV personality Pauly Shore showed up to hound the FLDS, the police and the news media.
Williams carried scrapbooks filled with pictures of his former family, his children smiling in a family portrait.
"They have beautiful, loving caring mothers. They should be returned to their families," he said.Asked if that family would include him, Williams replied: "As Heavenly Father sees fit."