The 416 children seized from the sprawling West Texas compound of a polygamist sect were moved to larger quarters Monday in San Angelo as dozens of attorneys struggled with the logistics of one of the biggest child custody cases in U.S. history.
Meanwhile a spokesman for the sect says some of the 139 women who left the compound voluntarily with the children have returned to the sprawling compound.
The children were taken out of the historic Fort Concho where they had been staying and moved to the San Angelo Coliseum Monday.
Some of the youngsters’ mothers had complained to Gov. Rick Perry that the children were getting sick in the crowded fort.
The governor’s spokesman says Perry did not believe the children were being housed in poor conditions.
Marleigh Meisner, a spokeswoman for state Child Protective Services, said Perry’s office had been in touch with CPS.
She declined to give further details.
Meanwhile, Rod Parker, a spokesman for the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, says a ranch resident told him some of the women had returned to the compound.
Child Protective services says other women chose to go to women’s shelters.
The agency says women with children four or under were allowed to remain with their kids for now.
CPS officials say it is not normal to allow a parent to accompany a child or to even know the child’s exact location once a child has been removed because of abuse or neglect.
As the children were moved, a courtroom conference involving dozens of attorneys was underway in San Angelo to lay the groundwork for a hearing that begins Thursday on the children’s fate.
The state accuses the sect of physically and sexually abusing the youngsters and wants to strip their parents of custody.
Authorities say the sect practices polygamy in arranged marriages between underage girls and older men.
The secretive nature of the sect adds to the confusion.
Attorney Randoll Stout said the youngsters “seem to change their names. Adults change their names. Children are passed around.”
The children were seized after a 16-year-old girl called a family violence shelter and said her 50-year-old husband beat and raped her.