Monday, April 7, 2008


AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

400+ kids taken from polygamist compound
Apr 7, 10:28 PM EDT
By MICHELLE ROBERTS / Associated Press Writer

ELDORADO, Texas (AP) -- More than 400 children, mostly girls in pioneer dresses, were swept into state custody from a polygamist sect in what authorities described Monday as the largest child-welfare operation in Texas history.

The dayslong raid on the sprawling compound built by now-jailed polygamist leader Warren Jeffs was sparked by a 16-year-old girl's call to authorities that she was being abused and that girls as young as 14 and 15 were being forced into marriages with much older men.

Dressed in home-sewn, ankle-length dresses with their hair pinned up in braids, some 133 women left the Yearning for Zion Ranch of their own volition along with the children.

State troopers were holding an unknown number of men in the compound until investigators finished executing a house-to-house search of the 1,700-acre property, which includes a medical facility, a cheese-making plant, a cement plant, a school, numerous large housing units and an 80-foot white limestone temple that rises discordantly out of the brown scrub.


"Once you go into the compound, you don't ever leave it," said Carolyn Jessop, one of the wives of the alleged leader of the Eldorado complex. Jessop left with her eight children before part of the sect moved to Texas.

Jessop said the community emphasized self-sufficiency because they believed the apocalypse was near.

The women were not allowed to wear red - the color Jeffs said belonged to Jesus - and were not allowed to cut their hair. They were also kept isolated from the outside world.

They "were born into this," said Jessop, 40. "They have no concept of mainstream society, and their mothers were born into and have no concept of mainstream culture. Their grandmothers were born into it."


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