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Texas inches closer to seizing massive polygamous ranch

Published November 18, 2013 2:15 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Texas moved a little bit closer to seizing the sprawling, polygamous Yearning for Zion Ranch earlier this month.

During a Nov. 4 hearing in Schleicher County, a pair of lawyers from the Texas Attorney General's office told a judge they have served Isaac Steed Jeffs and Keith Dutson Sr. with papers relating to the state's efforts to take the ranch, according to Texas AG's spokeswoman Lauren Bean.

Officials still need to serve James Jerry Jessop. However, at the Nov. 4 hearing the attorneys told the judge they could not find Jessop and filed a "motion for substitute service." Bean said the motion is used to serve papers to a person who cannot be located. It offers attorneys other options for serving papers and moving forward with the case, though Bean did not provide details about those options.

The judge granted the motion for substitute service but did not set a new hearing date.

Jessop, Jeffs and Dutson are all trustees of the ranch, which in the past served as a stronghold of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The church bought the Schleicher County ranch in 2003. In 2008, authorities raided the property after receiving a tip about a girl held against her will. Though the tip turned out to be false, an ensuing search and investigation uncovered evidence of underage marriages and sexual abuse on the property.

The Texas Attorney General's Office has been trying to seize the polygamous ranch since late 2012, arguing that the 1,600-acre property was used to commit crimes and is therefore contraband. The value of the property was appraised at $19.96 million in 2012, according to county tax rolls.

Progress in the case has been slow, however, as authorities struggled to serve all the necessary people with papers. Earlier this year, attorneys also served related paperwork to Warren Jeffs, who is in prison for sexually assaulting two underage girls he took as "wives." His brother Isaac Steed Jeffs was served while visiting the prison.

— Jim Dalrymyple II

Twitter: @jimmycdii