SAN ANGELO, Texas A Texas Ranger serving a search warrant at a polygamist ranch says there are beds inside the FLDS Church's only temple.
And those beds, according to newly relased documents that support the reasons for a police raid on the compound owned by the sect, are in a part of the temple where "males over the age of 17 engage in sexual activity" with underage girls.
New portions of a second search warrant, which was issued Sunday, were unsealed Wednesday and provided the first glimpse of some of what law enforcement officers have encountered since raiding the church's 1,700-acre ranch.
Inside the large limestone temple, ranger Leslie Brooks Long said she observed several locked safes, locked desk drawers, locked vaults, multiple computers and beds.
"On one of the beds within the temple, (I) observed that the bed linens were disturbed as if the bed had been used," she wrote. The officer said she also noticed a strand of hair believed to come from the head of a female, the court document states.
An unidentified former FLDS Church member, who has been advising Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran over the past several years, told the sheriff about the beds.
The warrant specifically identifies several girls and women who were interviewed at the ranch by child welfare workers during the first two days of the search. The examples either identified underage girls who were pregnant or "spiritually married" to older men, or young adult women who had children when they were underage.
Anyone under 17 is prohibited from marrying in Texas without parental approval.
During an interview Friday with a child who appeared to be 16, the girl was asked how old she was. The girl's husband, who is approximately 33 and was nearby during the interview, looked at his wife and said, "You are 18," the affidavit states. The girl, who has a 10-month-old baby, then replied that she was 18.
Long said she discovered a document indicating one man had more than 20 wives "all of whom resided in the same residence."
It was this information, together with other details, that prompted a judge to issue a second search warrant authorizing authorities to search for any and all records regarding the births of children to mothers under 17, parental information; photographs, especially family portraits; family Bibles or books showing marriages and birth information; fingerprints and hair and blood samples of men and women; plus any device capable of storing images.
The first warrant only authorized authorities to locate evidence to help them identify a 16-year-old girl, whose calls to a family shelter claiming physical and sexual abuse prompted the raid and other court orders that eventually led to all 416 children taken from the YFZ Ranch in Eldorado.
Additional details of her phone calls to a crisis hotline for domestic violence were also released Wednesday from the first search warrant.
During the first call on March 29, which lasted 42 minutes, the girl said she lived on the ranch, was pregnant and had an 8-month-old child. She said her husband "hits her and hurts her" and said she would try to get help to get off the ranch, according to the court affidavit.
During several calls to the hotline the next day, the girl described physical and sexual abuse from her husband and said she wasn't allowed to leave the ranch because a guard was posted at a guard tower near the gate. She expressed fear that if she was caught trying to leave, "she would be locked in her room and not allowed to eat as punishment for her disobedience," Long wrote in the court documents.
The girl also said she feared the "outside world" away from the ranch, saying "she had been told that outsiders would hurt her."
While officers continued gathering evidence as ordered in the second search warrant, a third search warrant was issued Wednesday this time from a federal judge. No details were available, but late Tuesday a Department of Public Safety spokeswoman said only that "the FBI is not out there now."
The 416 children, and 139 mothers who have "voluntarily" joined them, are expected to remain at the two shelters in San Angelo at least until an April 17 hearing.
That means it's not likely the state will try to place the children into foster homes until after that hearing, Marleigh Meisner told the Deseret Morning News.
"This is all decided on a day-to-day basis, but the children will remain for now in a shelter-type setting," the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services spokeswoman said.
Parents will be notified of the hearing and they will be allowed to attend with or without an attorney. Each child will be appointed an attorney ad litem and a guardian ad litem, she said. Child Protective Services will then make a recommendation about what should happen to each child and a judge will decide whether the child remains in state custody or is returned to family members.
"Then there are further court appearances over the next few months with a judge making a decision at each interval," Meisner said.In the meantime, she said 700 staff members are trying to make them "as comfortable as possible. We understand this is not easy for them."
E-mail: [email protected]