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FLDS sect girl told Texas cops she was beaten, feared for life
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

SAN ANGELO, Texas - The 16-year-old girl whose call for help sparked a massive raid at a polygamous sect's compound in west Texas said her spiritual husband would "beat and hurt" her whenever he got angry - sometimes choking her and once breaking her ribs.

During these attacks, another woman in the home held her infant child, the girl said in March 29 calls to an unnamed family violence shelter.

The new details about the call that led to an unprecedented evacuation of children from the sect's YFZ Ranch near Eldorado are laid out in a chilling affidavit released Tuesday by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

The girl's allegations led the state to raid the ranch, and the subsequent investigation revealed a "pattern and practice" of abuse that led officials to take temporary legal custody of 419 children.

The single affidavit covers all of those children, said Marleigh Meisner, spokeswoman for the Texas Child Protective Services.

She added that state officials believe all children have now been relocated from the ranch. Many of the children in custody are accompanied by 139 mothers, she said.

Meisner said calls from around the country have poured into Texas with offers of donations and homes for those taken from the ranch. The state plans to make information about how to help available on its Web site, http://www.dfps.state.tx.us.

The affidavit said the girl made a series of telephone calls on March 29, speaking quietly on a borrowed cell phone because she feared being overheard.

The girl said she had been brought to the ranch, owned by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, three years earlier and left there by her parents. She said that when she was 15, she was spiritually married to man who was about 49 years old, becoming his seventh wife.

The abuse began almost immediately, she said. Her husband would hit her in the chest and choke her. The most recent attack occurred on Easter Sunday, she said.

The girl said her husband and another wife took her off the ranch for medical care when her ribs were broken. A doctor wrapped her torso with an Ace bandage and told her to "take it easy for a few days."

The girl said her husband forced her to have sexual intercourse and that she is currently pregnant.

She said past attempts to fake an illness and escape while receiving medical care away from the ranch were thwarted because she was not allowed to take her infant.

On March 30, the girl called the shelter again and described her situation. She said that if her escape plan was discovered, she would be locked up.

The girl said that she had been told that outsiders would hurt her, force her to cut her hair and wear makeup and have sex with lots of men.

She also said she feared her parents were about to send a younger 15-year-old sister to the ranch and then began crying.

At that point, the affidavit said, the girl asked the person who took the call to forget everything she had said and that she was happy and fine.

The affidavit said that during the investigation at the ranch, authorities found a number of teenage girls who appeared to be pregnant minors, as well as young girls with infants.

"Investigators determined that there is a widespread pattern and practice among the residents of the YFZ ranch in which young minor female residents are conditioned to expect and accept sexual activity with adult men at the ranch on being spiritually married to them," it said.

Such marriages take place "once a minor female child is determined by the leaders of the YFZ ranch to have reached child-bearing age, approximately 13 to 14 years."

They are required then to engage in sexual activity with such males for the purpose of having children, the document states.

Officials went onto the ranch two days later after the girl's second call, and have since alleged the man the girl was describing is Dale Evans Barlow, 50, of Colorado City, Ariz.

In a separate document, investigators say children at the ranch were deprived of nutrition as punishment and forced to sit in closets.

The affidavit described the struggles officials have had during interviews with the children and their mothers.

Many children were unable or unwilling to provide names of their parents. Some identified multiple mothers - although that is common in polygamous families where children consider all their father's wives to be their mothers.

The document said many children could not or were unwilling to give their birthdays or say where they were born. Many women also have provided limited or no information about the fathers of their children and their children's names, ages and birth dates.

"This has made it difficult to determine who are the parents of the children located on the YFZ Ranch," it says.

brooke@sltrib.com

Leader of compound decries crackdown
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