This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.
(Photo courtesy Mike Terry, Deseret Morning News)
Carole Mikita reporting
Tomorrow marks one month since the raid on the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) compound in Eldorado, Texas.
Four hundred sixty-four children remain in state custody with authorities claiming to have evidence of both physical and sexual abuse. Tonight we take a look at what has happened and where the investigation is going now.
It began with phone calls from a female who authorities believed was a teenage girl inside the FLDS compound. She told them a man was abusing her. April 3, Texas state troopers and child welfare officials began a search. Four days later, Texas Child Protective Services (CPS) removed 416 children from the compound.
Two weeks after the raid, hundreds of attorneys and parents filled a courtroom and overflow area. Investigators testified that there was a pattern of giving underage girls in so-called "spiritual marriages" to older men.
The children's attorneys said it is difficult to talk to the youngsters. "Maybe they know who their father is and maybe they don't; and then they say, 'Well, I can only tell you what the prophet tells me,'" explained Texas attorney Thelma Clardy.
The judge ordered the parents and children to undergo DNA testing because they were not giving authorities correct names or ages.
Early this week, buses loaded with the FLDS children rolled out of the San Angelo Coliseum. They were taken to homes or group facilities throughout the state.
Also this week, the announcement came from CPS that of the 53 teenage girls removed from the ranch, 31 of them either have children or are pregnant. Days later, the commissioner of Texas Family and Protective Services told lawmakers investigators are looking into sexual abuse of FLDS boys and that they have evidence of dozens of broken bones, some in very young children.
"We have identified 41 children of past diagnosis of broken or fractures bones," explained Commissioner Carey Cockerell.
FLDS spokesman Rod Parker countered those comments by saying, "There is no suggestion that the injuries aren't just the result of normal accidents."
What's next? Federal law requires that a status hearing be held for each child within 60 days. University of Utah law professor Linda Smith says parents who have left the group or extended family should be contacting the court expressing interest in caring for these children.
"This would be the perfect time for those folks to make their interests or identity known to the court officials, because they certainly do have an interest in the children and it may be in the children's interest to be placed with these relatives or other parents," Smith said.
Federal law requires a "permanency hearing" within 180 days of when the children were removed from the ranch. This will determine whether a child returns to a parent, another relative or is adopted by another family.