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219 children, women taken from sect's ranch
04/6/08
Jeffs in trial


ELDORADO, Texas -- More than 200 women and children have been removed from a Texas ranch that's home to members of a mormon sect, but authorities have not identified the girl who called them with allegations of abuse.

The 16-year-old girl, who called authorities last week with allegations of physical abuse at the compound, may be in the group and using a different name, Marleigh Meisner, a spokeswoman for Texas Child Protective Services, said at a news conference Sunday.

"I am confident that this girl does indeed exist," Meisner said. "I am confident that the allegations that she brought forth are accurate.

"Since Thursday, authorities have removed 159 children and 60 adults from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) compound in Eldorado, Texas.

Eighteen of the girls have been taken into state custody. Authorities believe all "had been abused or were at immediate risk of future abuse," a state spokesman said.

The others are now housed at a shelter in San Angelo -- about 45 miles north of Eldorado -- where they are being questioned about abuse, Meisner said.

"It's certainly emotional for the children, but they are with caretakers -- people that they're accustomed to being with -- at the time," Meisner said. Many of the adults at the shelter are parents or relatives of the children, she said.

Warren Jeffs, the 52-year-old leader and "prophet" of the 10,000-member FLDS, was convicted in Utah last year on two counts of being an accomplice to violence. He still faces trial in Arizona.

Critics of the sect say it forces girls as young as 13 into arranged marriages.

Meisner said the adults cooperated with child protection officials as authorities continued their search for more children.

The rogue church bought 1,900 acres near Eldorado four years ago and built what it calls the YFZ Ranch. It is now home to as many as 400 members who moved from compounds in Arizona and Utah.

YFZ is a reference to a song written by Jeffs, "Yearning For Zion."

Previous visits by CNN revealed the ranch was guarded by armed men equipped with night-vision gear and other high-tech surveillance tools to prevent intruders.

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