Women, kids taken from compound town

April 6, 2008 5:10:03 PM PDT
Child Protective Services and law enforcement on Sunday were still trying to locate and remove all the children living at a West Texas compound founded by polygamist leader Warren Jeffs. They've been unable to locate the teen whose complaint prompted the raid. No arrests have been made.

Nearly 160 children, accompanied by 60 adults, had left the compound by Sunday, but CPS spokeswoman Marleigh Meisner said they were still looking for others. It was not clear how many children may still be on the sprawling desert ranch which has multiple buildings.

The women and children who were removed from the compound were bused to a historic fort in San Angelo, where Meisner said they could be housed in one place and medical and other services would be more accessible. Most of those who boarded buses in Eldorado were women and girls, dressed in long pastel dresses. Many were carrying bedding.

"They're doing remarkably well considering the circumstances," Meisner said. "They're being cooperative. They're very low key. They're very quiet."

Meisner said CPS officials are having difficulty locating the 16-year-old girl who phoned authorities to complain of abuse last week. Many of the girls are young mothers, and they share similar names -- or are changing them, she said. Authorities are also having difficulty determining the girls' ages.

So far, the search of the compound, which began Friday, has been peaceful.

Officers entered the white temple on the groundhrist of Latter Day Saints, headed by Jeffs after his father's death in 2002, broke away from the Mormon church after the latter disavowed polygamy more than a century ago.

The compound sits down a narrow paved road and behind a hill that shields it almost entirely from view in town. Only the 80-foot-high, white temple can be seen on the horizon.

Authorities kept onlookers miles away from the compound, which FLDS church members began building several years ago as authorities in Arizona and Utah began increasingly scrutinizing the group.

Jeffs is jailed in Kingman, Ariz., where he awaits trial for four counts each of incest and sexual conduct with a minor stemming from two arranged marriages between teenage girls and their older male relatives.

In November, he was sentenced to two consecutive sentences of five years to life in prison in Utah for being an accomplice to the rape of a 14-year-old girl who wed her cousin in an arranged marriage in 2001.

Eldorado, a dusty town surrounded by sheep ranches, has fewer than 2,000 people and is located nearly 200 miles northwest of San Antonio.

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