Three FLDS members surrender to authorities

September 30, 2008 3:35:18 AM PDT
Three members of a West Texas polygamist sect were released on bond Monday after surrendering to authorities on charges accusing them of sexual assault of a child. Lehi Barlow Jeffs, 29; Abram Harker Jeffs, 37, and Keith William Dutson Jr., 23, were indicted last week by a Schleicher County grand jury that has been considering evidence against residents of the Yearning For Zion Ranch, which is run by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a breakaway Mormon sect.

Lehi Jeffs and Abram Jeffs also were indicted on bigamy charges. Schleicher County Sheriff David Doran said the men surrendered about 11 a.m., paid their bail money and were released in about an hour. The bonds totaled $320,000.

Authorities raided the YFZ Ranch in April looking for evidence of underage marriages and abuse involving sect girls. Authorities say the polygamous group forced teenage girls to "spiritually marry" older men and kept detailed records of the unions.

The Houston Chronicle reported in its online edition Monday night that Lehi Jeffs was listed in the "Bishop Records" of having three wives, including one who was 16. Keith Dutson was listed as having a monogamous union with a 16-year-old and Abram Jeffs was listed as having five wives, including one who was 16.

An after hours call to an attorney for the FLDS was not immediately returned Monday night.

Generally under Texas law, no one younger than 17 can consent to sex with an adult.

The state's bigamy statute includes prohibitions against legally marrying or even purporting to marry more than one person. Many of the FLDS unions are so-called "spiritual" marriages, unions blessed by the church but with no legal record.

The FLDS believes polygamy brings glorification in heaven. The Mormon church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, renounced polygamy more than a century ago.

A total of eight people have been indicted by the grand jury.

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