ELDORADO, TEXAS — Two buses from First Baptist Church of Eldorado were used Friday afternoon to transport a number of children, mostly girls, from the YFZ Ranch north of Eldorado to the Schleicher County Civic Center approximately two miles south of town.
Once there the children were reportedly turned over to Child Protective Services (CPS). Meanwhile, other buses were observed headed back into the YFZ Ranch.
The first published reports that only 18 children had been removed from the ranch proved to be inaccurate. Authorities later revised the number upward to 52. Of that number, CPS workers are seeking immediate temporary custody of 18 of the children ranging in age fro 6 months to 17 years. The other 34 children are being interviewed and treated as if they are “at risk,”
It is not clear who will end up with custody of the children once hearings are held Monday before 51st District Judge Barbara Walther in San Angelo.
Authorities set up a perimeter around the YFZ Ranch late Thursday afternoon in order to support an effort by CPS to investigate an a report that an underage girl had been sexually abused at the YFZ Ranch.
Lawmen reportedly entered the ranch late that evening and escorted a number of CPS investigators onto the property where they began a lengthy process of interviewing the residents.
CPS spokeswoman Marleigh Meisner stated that the residents at the YFZ were cooperating with investigators and providing access to children they need to interview.
Preparations were underway Friday night to provide cots and a warm place to sleep for the 52 children at a local church.
It remains to be seen if more children will be removed from the ranch as the raid continued into the evening hours on Friday. Lawmen were told to prepare for another long and chilly night on the roadblocks around the YFZ Ranch.
The YFZ Ranch is home to members of a polygamous sect from Utah known as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS). The group purchased the property near Eldorado in late 2003. The following year they began construction of numerous dormitory style buildings and a massive white limestone temple. Since that time a small town has been built on the property.
FLDS Church leader Warren Jeffs was convicted last year on two counts of Rape as an Accomplice for his role in arranging and performing marriages between one of his male followers and his underage cousin. Jeffs is facing similar charges in Arizona as well as a federal charge of Unlawful Flight to avoid Prosecution. He was on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List until his capture near Las Vegas Nevada in 2006.
The Eldorado Success will report more details as they become available.